The sport’s world governing body certainly put the cat amongst the South American pigeons last week when it announced that no more games would be played at altitude, for health and safety reasons.
This curious and unexpected directive seemed to me at first to have been an arbitrary blow against Ecuador and Bolivia, whose national teams play internationals in their high-altitude capitals.
Ecuador qualified for the 2006 World Cup thanks to an unbeaten home record in Quito (elevation 2,800 metres) which included the scalps of traditional South American superpowers Brazil and Argentina.
However, the theory that altitude equals advantage is unproven when Bolivia, who play their games at La Paz (3,600m), finished bottom of the pile.
FIFA’s limit of 2,500m for football matches would also rule Bogota out of future games, although Colombia tends to eschew their capital in favour of the large Estadio Metropolitano in Baranquilla, which stands a lofty six metres above sea level.
Suspicious eyes have turned towards the influence in CONMEBOL wielded by Brazil, the largest country in the continent, synonym for football greatness, home of former FIFA President Joao Havelange and the sole candidate from the region for the 2018 World Cup.Read more →