Ban on stadia above sea level riles many

LA PAZ - Fifa has been urged to reconsider its ban on international matches played at stadia like La Paz in Bolivia situated over 2 500m above sea level.

LA PAZ - Fifa has been urged to reconsider its ban on international matches played at stadia like La Paz in Bolivia situated over 2 500m above sea level.

World football's governing body introduced the new ruling on Sunday citing its wish to better protect players' health.

But its decision has stirred up a storm in Latin America led by Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, who has called on Fifa to shelve the idea.

Morales said: "This ban discriminates against the legitimate right of people to play football and ignores the principle of egality and universality inscribed in the Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations."

The Bolivia president said he would be contacting other countries and cities affected by the ban to form a unified opposition to the ruling and is planning to hold a meeting in La Paz to discuss further action.

"We will be calling on our fellow presidents from Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries who are opposed to this decision so as to take into account those people who live at high altitude and who will find themselves excluded from playing sport."

Fifa, outlining its reasons for the controversial new law, explained: "For medical reasons and so as to better protect the players the executive committee has decided that from now on international games at over 2 500m altitude will be banned."

South American delegates at Fifa's meeting in Zurich at the weekend suggested Fifa would be prepared to reconsider the ruling if it received a formal request to do so from the continent's football federation, Conmebol.

Apart from the Bolivian capital which lies 3 600m above sea level the ban will also cover the Colombian capital Bogota (2 600m) and Quito (2 800m) in Ecuador. Mexico City can consider itself fortunate, however, as it narrowly escapes the ruling lying at an altitude of 2 240m. - Sapa-AFP

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