With the World Cup well under way, we couldn’t resist a mountain medicine-related football story!
Back in 2007 FIFA implemented a ban on international football matches being played above an altitude of 2500m. The effect of the ban meant that countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia were unable to play in their capital cities.The ruling had followed years of complaints from countries such as Argentina and Brazil who felt that their high altitude opponents had an unfair advantage. Their complaints were borne out by the statistics - in the previous ten seasons of the Copa Libertadores competition, Bolivian clubs had won 31 out of 65 games at home and only 3 out of 65 away.
Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz (3600m)
The response to FIFA's ban was dramatic. Ecuador's president, Evo Morales described the action as, "football apartheid" and played in a highly publicised match in La Paz (3600m) to make his point. South American countries rallied together like never before, offended at what they saw to be unfair discrimination. Eventually, after enormous political pressure FIFA lifted the ban in 2008 and international football returned to high altitude.
Ten years on, Brazilian teams continue to have difficulties at high altitude. As a picture from a recent world cup qualifier against Bolivia shows...
Brazilian footballers recovering after a 0-0 draw with Bolivia. The match was played in La Paz (3600m).