Blatter to waive altitude ban for La Paz

Fifa is backing down from its ban on international soccer matches in Bolivia’s capital of La Paz, the agency’s leader said Friday.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he was responding to a request from Bolivian President Evo Morales, who led a campaign to overturn a ban announced in May on international soccer matches at altitudes of over 2 500m.

”I had a good visit with Evo Morales — a good soccer player, I have to say — and he asked me for an exception for La Paz, and I can make that exception,” Blatter said in Guatemala City, where he is attending a session of the International Olympic Committee.

”Now it’s up to the national teams,” he added, indicating that other South American nations would have to approve the waiver for La Paz, which sits 3 600m above sea level.

Fifa’s original announcement of the ban enraged Bolivia because it would have ruled out international competition in most of their major stadiums, as well as in the capitals of Colombia and Ecuador.

After Andean nations complained, a 15-member medical panel of South American football confederation Conmebol convened and issued a finding that there were ”no major problems” with playing at altitude.

With Morales leading the campaign, including playing a brief match at 6 000m on Bolivia’s highest peak, Conmebol formally asked Fifa to rescind the ban.

Last month, Fifa eased the restriction to prohibit World Cup qualifiers above 3 000m.

Blatter termed his new move ”a political decision” and added, ”I am going to get into a dispute with Fifa’s medical service.”

The Fifa president made no mention of Cuzco, Peru, which is 3 400m above sea level, or any other city still affected by the ban. – Sapa-AP

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