Thursday, May 31, 2007

Altitude Discrimination Update

This might not be as much of an unbelievable soap opera as college football's Las Chronicas de Boss Hawg, but it is getting good, and remember it's early yet.

- Go ahead and add Peru to the list of livid South American nations protesting the new FIFA altitude ban. Peruvian president Alan Garcia has joined the fray, and is even dropping some intelligent smack as well:

"I am absolutely positive that Bladder cannot play above 2,500 meters, so he probably assumes soccer players cannot either. Perhaps we should ban matches in hot regions such as Africa or in Norway where it is very cold," added Garcia.

- After playing four soccer matches at 3,600 meters Wednesday to protest the ban, Bolivian president Evo Morales spoke to the press:

Speaking on the sidewalk in front of the palace in a red-and-green warm-up suit, Morales announced that Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had all pledged to support Bolivia's efforts to overturn the ban.

"This demonstrates that Bolivia is not alone," Morales said. "We will continue speaking with other presidents so that (high-altitude) sport will not be marginalized."

But Uruguayan officials attending FIFA's 57th annual congress Wendesday in Zurich denied that was true, and Argentine officials declined to comment on Morales' claim.

The soap opera factor is getting high, with Uruguay denying his claims and Argentina, first alleged to be one of the main influences behind the ban, speechless thusfar.

Speaking of protest movements in Bolivia, I'm sure Che would be
saying a big fat "fuck you!" to FIFA. Or perhaps "hijo de puta!"...

- Ecuador, Bolivia, and Columbia are threatening to withdraw from next month's Copa America over the issue, and now the Peruvian Soccer Federation has joined them as well. That is 4 out of the 10 South American soccer nations, and 4 out of the 12 participating teams in this year's Copa America. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially since there is no World Cup or European Championships this summer, making Copa America the center of world football's attention. Are these nations bluffing or will they really withdraw, and if they really do pull out will FIFA relent and rescind the ban or hold their ground and conduct a Copa America with only 8 teams {and only 6 of them South American at that}?

La situacion es muy, muy interesante...


DC Trojan said...

Fight the power! They absolutely should withdraw over this. If FIFA is that short of things to do, maybe they should consider downsizing their enormous staff. A half a dozen morons should do the trick.

moin said...

I am totally with you guys on this one. This is the stupidest rule I've heard in a long time. Leave it to FIFA to punish countries for having the audacity to exist in high altitudes, but let the nations that turn a blind eye to hooliganism and racism.

If we are really serious about getting rid of "advantages", let's ban all matches played above 55 degrees latitude because the cold represent an unfair advantage against nations that are traditionally warm weathered.

Oh, how about banning all matches played on turf of bad quality? That's a huge disadvantage for players from nations that are used to playing on high quality surfaces (I'm looking at you, Paul Robinson and your divot).

This is beyond stupid/retarded and 100% political.

Kanu said...

Si, si, exacto mi caballeros!

I hope they do all withdraw, the least that would happen is that the fucktards at FIFA would have tons of egg on their face.

Michael said...

Am I the only one who thinks that this is a good idea, or that Bolivia and Ecuador shouldn't make a World Cup on the basis of playing games at ridiculous altitudes where they can beat Brazil and Argentina, even though their teams aren't good enough to beat anyone on the road or at a neutral site? CONMEBOL has the fairest set-up for qualifying - home and road in a round robin - and the teams that play at 10,000 feet and therefore dominate in the last 15 minutes distort that competition. Altitude is very different from heat and cold in that it affects a human's ability to run and it doesn't affect the teams equally.

Let's twist the question slightly: am I the only one who thinks it is BS that Mexico gets to play their home games at 9,000 feet in the most polluted city in the world? We don't really care right now because the US can lose at Azteca and still qualify at a canter, but if the margins were tighter, you bet you ass we'd care.

moin said...

Sorry Michael, I just don't see it that way.

Are we going to start saying that it's BS that the Denver Broncos play their home games at that high altitude (especially come playoff time)? Seems to me, by that criteria, we should dismiss any NFL results that ever occured in or around the city of Denver.

Can you imagine the uproar if the NFL decided to do that?

Michael said...

I was eagerly waiting for the Denver comparison. There is a major, major difference between playing at 5,000 feet and 11,000 feet. Opposing players can do quite well at 5,000 feet, as evidenced by any one of a number of teams that have done well in Denver. There is NO explanation for Brazil and Argentina losing at those places other than altitude. It simply destroys the game as a contest.

The Broncos don't have massive home/road splits like Bolivia and Ecuador. When the Broncos win, it's not because of their homefield advantage. The same is certainly not true in South America.

Finally, even if there was a major advantage to Denver playing at 5,000 feet, there's no alternative. What other city are the Denver Broncos going to play in? On the other hand, Ecuador could play in Guayaquil, which is not at altitude and has as much population as Quito, IIRC, but they choose to play in Quito to screw their opponents.

An analogy that Kanu might appreciate: football pitches can be of varying sizes. Highbury was narrow; the Nou Camp is wide. Just because you allow some difference in pitch size doesn't mean that Wigan could play their games in a phone booth to ensure a 0-0 draw. Similarly, just because you let teams play at 5,000 feet doesn't mean you have to let them play at 11,000.

You need to get past the innate "stick up for the little guy" first reaction (which I'm all in favor of) and realize that Bolivia and Ecuador are screwing other little guys like Chile and Uruguay, better teams that don't qualify because they can't screw their way to 8-1-0 home records.

moin said...

But why must Colombia, Bolivia, Equador, and Peru accomodate Brazilian and Argentinian players so as to not take "too much" advantage of their home field?

Your pitch-size analogy is a valid point that I had not considered before. But I still can't get beyond how unfair this is to Bolivia especially.

Kanu said...

I actually didn't consider theDenver thing with the NFL, as it is "only" 5200 feet, what popped into my head is that the Miami Dolphins are something like 0-41 all time in games played where the temperature is below 32 degrees {these numbers may be slightly off, but you get the idea}.

But you simply cannot punish a country for playing where it exists naturally on earth. Visiting college basketball teams struggle paying at The Pit in Alberquerque against New Mexico and at University of Wyoming because of the altitude- it happens. And as you yourself pointed out, Michael, Mexico plays at 9,000 feet with smoggy ass air, which I think most people in soccer would agree is a much more difficult and unhealthy condition than playing in the "relatively" cleaner air of La Paz, Cuzco, or Quito. Yet FIFA went out of their way to pick an arbitrary elevation that just barely allowed a traditionally powerful soccer nation {Mexico} to keep their massive, massive home field advantage, whilst punishing much less powerful soccer nations and eliminating their home field advantage.

To follow your line of argument through to it's conclusion, Michael, shouldn't all CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers be played on neutral grounds in neutral countries at an altitudes between 3,000 - 6,000 feet?

If there was evidence of players dying or being seriously injured or whatnot, then there might be some credence to FIFAs rationale, but all we have heard is that Flamengo (traditional powerful huge club from traditional powerful huge country} had to play a Copa Libertadores road match away to a tiny Bolivian club who happen to naturally exist at 13,000 feet, and the game happened to occur during a period of freezing rain, and the Flamengo players were certainly affected in a major way but still drew 2-2, then went on to win their home match 1-0. So they were rewarded with a win in the end because they are a superior football club {this was still in group play but you get my point}.

I still say that this is a case of powerful entities in football trying to further marginalize weaker/poorer/less powerful nations that are a nuisance to them, in the same way that powerful huge companies try to marginalize upstart little guy companies that are a nuisance to them {shit take your pick, ummm, Microsoft is the first to pop into my head}.

Your position is that the "other little guys" are being fucked over and that the ban is good.

But I haven't seen or heard one complaint over this issue eminating from any of the other "little guys". Rather, many of them seem to be lining up on the same side at Bolivia & Eduador.