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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Latin American leaders furious with FIFA altitude ban

Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, sent a delegation to Switzerland to protest the recent ban on international high-altitude soccer games. He said that his bid counts with the support of his counterparts in Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is leading a regional crusade against a recent Fifa ban on international high-altitude soccer games. The South American leader, who rules a country where most of its 9 million population lives in the Andean highlands, has sent a delegation to Switzerland to protest the ban that prohibits international matches at more than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level.

According to Mr. Morales, his counterparts in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez; Argentina, Nestor Kirchner; and Uruguay, Tabare Vazquez, have joined him in the fight to overturn the FIFA rule. "This demonstrates that Bolivia is not alone," Morales said Wednesday. "We will continue speaking with other presidents so that (high-altitude) sport will not be marginalised."

Joining a high-altitude sports rally, the president then ran a lap through the streets of the capital La Paz –about 3,800 metres above the level of sea- briefly jumped on a trampoline, and played a soccer game on the street against former members of Bolivia's national team.

FIFA has cited a concern for players' health, as well as the home-field advantage of high-altitude teams over their visiting lowland rivals. But Morales discounted such fears, saying the challenges of playing at altitude were simply part of the world's game. "He who wins at altitude, wins with dignity," Morales said. "He who fears altitude has no dignity."

The Bolivian delegation led by government minister Juan Ramon Quintana left to Switzerland on Wednesday morning. ``We are going to knock on FIFA's doors at any hour of the day and in any circumstances'' so it understands Bolivia won't accept the ban, Quintana told media before leaving, according to Spain's EFE news agency.

As per the new FIFA ban, Latin American cities like Bogota (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador) and Toluca (Mexico), which host powerful soccer teams will be deprived of international games. On Monday, the Andean Community of Nations -- including Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, each with cities above the limit -- sent FIFA president Joseph Blatter a letter calling for the ruling to be overturned.

FIFA decision came after players from Brazilian team Flamengo were repeatedly administered oxygen during a Libertadores Cup match staged at Real Potosi in the Bolivian Andes, 4,200 meters above sea level, in February. Flamengo said in a statement a day after the game that conditions were ``inhumane” and asked for bans to high-altitude competition.

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