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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Andean nations object to Fifa ban
Bolivian President Evo Morales plays football in the Andes
Bolivia's president has made a point of playing at high altitude
Representatives from five Andean nations have signed a declaration in Bolivia opposing Fifa's ban on high-altitude international football.

The document will be presented next week to the South American Football Federation, which may veto the ruling.

The ban affects teams in Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Bolivia.

The affected countries have been accused of using their high-altitude grounds to gain a competitive advantage - a claim they strongly deny.

The declaration signed in La Paz stated that Fifa's decision to ban games at grounds higher than 2,500m (8,200ft) above sea level was wrong on medical, political and sporting grounds.

The Andean representatives heard scientific evidence and laid the blame for the ban on footballing giants Argentina and Brazil, which have struggled at altitude in recent years.

Bolivia has also taken its fight to Panama, where the Organisation of American States is meeting.

BBC South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says if the ban is ratified, Bolivia may take Swiss-based Fifa to the European Court of Human Rights.

Our correspondent says the Andean countries have never taken the football world by storm but they view the game very seriously and say all they want is a level playing field, regardless of the altitude.

Opposition mounts

According to the new Fifa rules both the Bolivian capital, La Paz, and the capital of Ecuador, Quito, will be barred from staging international matches.

Fifa said it took the decision based on expert medical opinion, saying that playing games at high altitude posed health risks.

LATIN AMERICAN CITIES
Bolivia: La Paz - 3,600m (11,811ft)
Ecuador: Quito - 2,800m
Colombia: Bogota - 2,640m
Peru: Cuzco - 3,500m

The governing body also fears that playing at high altitude can distort competition.

Peru had planned to stage several qualifying games for the 2010 World Cup at an altitude of 3,500m in the city of Cuzco.

But all the affected nations deny using altitude to gain an unfair advantage.

A Bolivian newspaper says it has collected one million names on a petition against the ban.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has already demonstrated his opposition to the ban by putting on his own boots and playing at 3,500m.

Now a protest match is being organised in the rarefied air of Sajama, a town in south-western Bolivia, at an altitude of about 4,300m.


SEE ALSO
Tim Vickery column
04 Jun 07 |  Internationals
Bolivian leader kicks off protest
31 May 07 |  Americas
Fifa bans high-altitude football
28 May 07 |  Americas
On tour with Bolivia's president
29 May 07 |  Americas
Romario celebrates '1,000th goal'
21 May 07 |  Americas
Tim Vickery column
19 Feb 07 |  Football

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