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FIFA to reconsider La Paz altitude ban
June 29th, 2007 7AM

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Bolivian President Evo Morales looks to have won the day in his fight to get FIFA to relent on its ban on World Cup qualifiers taking place at high altitude.

A day after FIFA's executive committee modified the ban -- raised from 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) to 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he will reconsider a ban on high altitude matches, noting that it was "not a scientific or medical decision, it is a sports political decision." Blatter's remarks followed a meeting on Thursday with Morales, who has objected to the ban on qualifiers in La Paz, situated at 3,600 meters (11,800) above sea level.

Blatter said he would summon an emergency committee consisting of Blatter as FIFA president and the presidents of FIFA's six continental confederations and announce a final decision sometime next week. Bolivian soccer federation president Carlos Chavez went so far as to say it was a done deal.

"It was a very enlightening get-together," Blatter said. "We spoke about the value of football in the integration of society and Mr. Morales explained to me why it is so important that they can play in the capital."

FIFA introduced its original 2,500-meter ban in May following concerns expressed by its medical committee over the health of visiting players and over possible unfair advantages for the home team.

On Wednesday the executive raised the ceiling 500 meters following protests from several South American nations and CONMEBOL.

"We will be holding a big medical conference on this issue in October," Blatter added after meeting Morales, "but this is not a scientific or medical decision, it is a sports political decision. I hope we do it because I do not want to have one people who cannot play in their capital when they have played there for the past 20, 30, 40 or 50 years."

"The winner is our country, the winner is La Paz. La Paz is going to carry on being the venue for World Cup qualifiers," Chavez told radio station Panamericana from the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, where Bolivia is taking part in the Copa America. "The presence of our president in Zurich was a deciding factor."


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