As we all know, soccer in most parts of the world means everything. And it's personal. Fans, athletes, and politicians alike from the Andean nations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru cried foul over FIFA's decision to ban international maches above 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). FIFA claimed the decision was due to health and safety concerns.
Bolivia will be hit the hardest with the ban, as the capital of La Paz lies at 3,600 meters. Bolivian officials blamed not health issues, but instead the soccer powers in the lowland nations of Brazil and Argentina. The continental rivalry spawned two vastly different viewpoints of the decision.
Kleber Leite, VP of Brazilian club Flamengo called the ruling "a victory for humankind." His squad filed the formal complaint with FIFA after their February match with Bolivia's Real Potosi left players heading to the sideline for oxygen during the match.
Bolivian president Evo Morales sees things a little differently.
"We want to stop this injustice being committed because he who wins at high altitude, stands tall ... there shouldn't be any fear about playing sport at altitude."The ruling has so incited the Bolivian public that the newspaper El Diaro published 15 stories on the subject. And why don't we let the "average Bolivian Joe" tell it like it is: "We're not like the Brazilians or Argentines, who just play in warm places, and not anywhere too tough. Bolivians will play wherever." He then proceeded to mock FIFA by doing jumping jacks.
FIFA's ruling really seems to be a reactionary one that really takes away the home-field advantage that countries gain. Each nation has their own unique climate, and with that comes the home-field advantage. Here in the US we see that with the pro-teams in Denver. Teams are always complaining that the thin air helps the Nuggets out, yet you don't see them constantly winning? Similarly, Bolivia has not become a world power in soccer at all, has it? The better team usually wins, regardless of the conditions. Should games not be played in Brazil because it's too humid? FIFA's ban has opened up a slippery slope, and they'd be wise to revert away from this decision.