Bolivians want soccer at 11,800 feet |

Bolivians want soccer at 11,800 feet

Allen BestVail, CO Colroado

LA PAZ, Bolivia So why cant international soccer matches be held at 11,800 feet? Thats the elevation of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. But, according to a ruling by soccers world governing body, its too high.The controversy dates to February, when an influential Brazilian club called Flamengo, which trains at sea level, played Bolivias Real Pootisi in a freezing rain at 13,120 feet. Although the Brazilians took oxygen and eventually drew 2-2 with the Bolivian club, the Brazilians vowed to never again play at such a high altitude.Subsequently, in May, the International Federation of Football Associations announced a ban on international events held above 8,200 feet. The ban was explained as a response to medical issues and a concern that home teams at higher elevations had an unfair advantage.That ban excluded the capitals of Columbia (Bogota, elevation 8,661 feet) and Ecuador (Quito, elevation 9,200 feet) and understandably, neither country was happy.In June the limit was raised to 9,800 feet. Now, only Bolivia is left in the cold.The stadium in La Paz is somewhat informally known as the Condors Nest. Since 1957, it has been the site of most of Bolivias national team games during World Cup qualifying. Bolivia has only rarely won international matches, but the New York Sun notes the stadium was the site of a 1993 defeat of Brazil the first time that Brazil had ever lost a qualifying round.Bolivias president, Evo Morales, has made it a case of political football. He has called emergency cabinet meetings and even donned his soccer gear for a match at 20,000 feet on the slopes of Sajama, Bolivias highest mountain. The Associated Press says Morales scored the only goal of the game.While critics say Morales is trying to deflect attention from the problems of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, Reuters says many ordinary Bolivians back the president.We didnt have the luck to be born anywhere else, says one 45-year-old pastry seller in La Paz. We have to play sports wherever we are.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS For the sixth time in seven years, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting a declining enrollment in Steamboat Springs schools. If the bureaus estimation is to be believed, Steamboat population last year dipped to 9,315. But school officials tell the Steamboat Pilot & Today that enrollment is now up. Tom Leeson, the citys planning direction, thinks the population is close to 11,000.

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