Last minute arrival is answer to altitude, say Bolivians
La Paz: Playing football at high altitude need not be banned provided teams arrive just before kickoff and leave immediately after, the head of research carried out in Bolivia said on Wednesday.
"According to the studies were have completed, a period of acclimatisation is unnecessary. There is no reason to prohibit football at altitude," said Ivo Eterovic, head of the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF) medical commission.
Opponents of football at high altitude argue that it gives teams accustomed to the rarefied air an unfair advantage and world body FIFA banned all matches at more than 2,750 metres above sea level in December 2007.
FIFA, however, lifted the ban temporarily in May 2008 pending more research. But it is set to recommend at an October assembly that teams must only play at altitude after a two-week adaptation period, FBF sources said.
Eterovic, however, said: "Arriving only a few hours before (the match), playing and leaving is the best thing so the altitude does not affect the players.”
"Physiologically, the human body only starts responding (to the altitude) after the fourth or fifth hour," he said.
Bolivia play their international matches at the Hernando Siles stadium in La Paz, 3,600 metres above sea level, where they humiliated Diego Maradona's ill-prepared Argentina 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier on April 1.
Ecuador, who beat Argentina 2-0 in their home fixture in June, play at 2,850 metres at the Atahualpa in Quito, Peru sometimes host matches in Cuzco at 3,400 metres and Colombia in Bogota at 2,650.
Maradona, who took charge of Argentina last October, had backed the Bolivians in their fight with FIFA over hosting games in La Paz, playing in a solidarity match with the country's President Evo Morales in March 2008.
According to FIFA, the Hernando Siles is the world's second highest stadium. The highest, 4,380 metres up in the Peruvian Andes, is home to second division Union Minas in the mining town of Cerro de Pasco.