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Rediff.com  » Sports » Maradona slams FIFA's altitude ban

Maradona slams FIFA's altitude ban

March 18, 2008 14:21 IST

Diego Maradona criticised a ban on international matches at high altitude on Monday after playing a charity game in Bolivia's national stadium at 3,600 metres above sea level.

Bolivia President Evo Morales also took part in the match in front of a 30,000 crowd at the Hernando Siles stadium, which can no longer be used for World Cup qualifying games under FIFA rules.

"I, at the age of 47, and president Morales have shown FIFA that you can run on this pitch," Maradona, captain of Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning team, told reporters.

"You have to play where you are born, not even God can prohibit this and certainly not [FIFA president Sepp] Blatter."

Earlier, Maradona had described the ban as disgraceful.

"The measure is ridiculous because they want to make Bolivia go somewhere else. It's disgraceful, it was approved by people who have never chased a football, it's political," he said.

"Are they trying to change geography?"

The Friends of Maradona team beat Morales's side of Bolivian politicians and ex-players 7-4 in a game organised to raise money for victims of flooding in the Andean nation.

VISITING TEAMS

FIFA on Friday ruled that international matches can only be played above 2,750 metres if visiting teams are given one week to acclimatise and above 3,000 metres if they are given two weeks.

As clubs are only obliged to release players for internationals five days in advance, the decision effectively rules out matches above these altitudes.

It means that Ecuador and Bolivia, who traditionally play home matches in Quito and La Paz respectively, would have to move to lower venues.

FIFA initially introduced the ban last May but then back-tracked, after which both Ecuador and Bolivia played 2010 World Cup qualifiers in Quito and La Paz.

However, the ban was reintroduced in December and upheld at a meeting in Zurich on Friday.

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