Sunday, 5 April 2009

Football in the gods

Watching Argentina defying the football odds by getting thumped 6-1 against Bolivia was, I have to admit, highly amusing. Their worst defeat in 60 years, it was like watching Manchester United get hammered, it doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it brings a smile to my face.
Argentina boss Diego Maradona, as quotable as ever, described each Bolivia goal as a stab in his heart and admitted his side were outplayed overall.

But to spring to Argentina’s defence the game was played in La Paz - 3,600 metres above sea-level. If you are not used to the oxygen-starved air up there, walking around is difficult, let alone playing football for 90 minutes. It was no surprise therefore that much of the Argentinean team looked breathless throughout the game.

It is not only the Bolivian team who play at high altitude, fellow South American countries Ecuador, Columbia and Peru all have stadia in similar conditions. It clearly gives the home side an advantage - Ecuador regularly qualify for major tournaments with impressive home qualifying records only to struggle when they face opponents on a level playing field.

FIFA actually banned matches being played above 2,500 feet in 2007, claiming it distorted competition and was dangerous for players' health. They cited medical experts' claims that playing at elevation causes headaches, nausea, fatigue and insomnia.

The Bolivian authorities appealed, claiming it was discrimination, and the ban was eventually overturned a few months later. They used evidence from another set of doctors, who have insisted that it causes no major problems provided there has been a period of acclimatisation.

While it can’t be denied that it plays a role in the outcome of matches it is surely....

Read the rest of my guest blog over at leftbackinthechangingroom.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, as ever, Tom. Really happy to put it up.