Thursday, June 28, 2007

FIFA Altitude Ban Modified, But Not Far Enough

So on Wednesday FIFA eased back a bit on their ban of international matches played at altitude. Initially the cutoff was 2,500 meters {8,200 feet}, but after massive protests they have come back and changed it to 3,000 meters {9,840 feet}.

My take on this is that FIFA are attempting the old divide and conquer. Follow me...

1) This whole thing basically started because the most powerful CONMEBOL nation, Brasil, no longer wants to have to play at high altitude away to Bolivia, probably the smallest/least powerful CONMEBOL nation.

2) Allegedly Argentina joins Brasil and this becomes a matter of the stronger nations trying to further marginalize the weaker nations by eliminating their home field advantage because it is a nuisance to them, and that the altitude nations perform much, much better at home than on the road.

3) The ban comes out at an arbitrary 2,500 meters, which eliminates significant home field advantages for Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, relatively weak footy nations, but magically is just high enough to allow Mexico, one of the 2 strongest CONCACAF nations, to continue to have their massive, massive home field advantage at Azteca stadium with it's horribly polluted air and altitude of 2,250 meters.

4) The smaller, less powerful nations ban together in protest and basically vow to fight for one another in solidarity.

5) On Wednesday FIFA arbitrarily changes the altitude cutoff from 2,500 meters to 3,000 meters. Guess what this accomplishes? Now matches at Quito, Ecuador {2,850 meters} and Bogota, Colombia {2,640 meters} are suddenly legal, leaving Bolivia all alone {Peru play in Lima and were openly talking about going up to Cuzco at 3,200 meters for WC qualifiers but obviously will just continue to play in Lima now that all the controversy has kicked off}.

6) Seems kind of obvious to me that FIFA are trying to divide and conquer the protesting group of 4 by basically allowing 2 back in and hoping that they basically say "Sorry, Bolivia, love ya, but we're good to go. Good luck, dudes, we're out. Peace." This will effectively accomplish what Brasil set out to do in the first place, which is not have to go up to 11,800 feet to play World Cup qualifiers in La Paz, Bolivia.

The question is, will Colombia and Ecuador do that, or will they still back Bolivia's fight on general principle? It will be interesting to see. Either way, Bolivian president Evo Morales seems confident that he can get Blatter to overturn the ban altogether. And like any good politician, he is using this issue to garner support among his people. I hope that happens because I think that it is a ridiculous, arbitrary and capricious ban and should not be allowed to stand on general principle.

So to sum up, good news but not great news. Hopefully this thing will be tossed out soon enough.

***Update***

FIFA President and general scoundrel Sepp Blatter says that he is reconsidering the entire ban after meeting with Bolivian President Evo Morales for 40 minutes yesterday. Does Evo have compromising pictures of Sepp?

1 comment:

el pichichi said...

It's a start. I really find this whole thing ridiculous. And what's worse I hate the fact the Brasil was behind this. Brasil has always been a classy team, the one everyone on the planet roots for, after their own squad (except maybe for Argentines)...anyway, this just makes them look petty and whining. What, 5 WC championships aren't good enough?

Sad.