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FIFA shelves controversial altitude ban

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 May 2008

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World governing body FIFA has shelved its controversial ban on international football matches played at high altitude, its president Sepp Blatter said Tuesday.

Blatter said FIFA's executive committee had decided provisionally to suspend the measure, which particularly incensed Bolivia, at a meeting ahead of this week's Congress here.

“Let us reopen the discussion,” Blatter told a press conference here Tuesday.

The Confederation of South American Football has been demanding that FIFA push back the ban on playing matches above 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) until after the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bolivia's football federation claimed it was discriminated against by the FIFA ban. The capital La Paz's Hernando Siles stadium is 3,577m above sea-level.

Ecuador was another affected South American nation with its capital, Quito, at 2,830m.

Furious Bolivian president Evo Morales had condemned Blatter as a 'dictator' and was planning on taking his battle to the United Nations.

Blatter has proposed replacing the altitude ban with a package of laws regulating “Football Under Extreme Conditions” — including heat, humidity and cold as well as pollution.

Blatter said FIFA's medical commission had recommended that regulating for a “package” of environmental factors would be better.

He said qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup can now go ahead at high-altitude venues while FIFA considers changes to laws for match conditions at international and domestic club level.

Blatter revealed that he had received a “harsh” letter last month from Morales but had then received a more cordial appeal from him for the sport's governing body to “advocate for the good of the game.”

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