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FIFA climb down over altitude ban

River City

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FIFA have performed a u-turn on a ruling they made last month and will allow international matches to be played at an altitude of up to 3,000 metres above sea level rather than 2,500 metres.

"There has been a huge political discussion around this decision, although it was taken solely to protect the players," FIFA president Sepp Blatter told a news conference following an executive committee meeting.

"We have spoken again to our medical commission who told us there is a margin concerning the medical issues and that with a specific tolerance limit we could go up to under 3,000 metres."

FIFA's original decision to prevent internationals being played at 2,500 metres and above led to widespread protests in several South American countries including Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, all of whom have venues above the proposed limit.

The new ruling will still prevent matches from taking place in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, which is 3,600 metres (11,800 feet) above sea level and where oxygen levels are considerably lower than at sea level.

However it does mean that Quito (2,800 metres) and Bogota (2,600 metres), the capitals of Ecuador and Colombia can stage matches.

Bolivian president Evo Morales, who has campaigned against the ban, is due to meet Blatter at FIFA's Zurich headquarters on Thursday.

"First and foremost I will welcome him to FIFA as the president of a country and then I will inform him of the executive commiteee's decision in the same terms I have used today," Blatter said.

"As well as the medical aspect we must also consider the sporting aspects," Blatter added.

"If a national team invites another team to play exclusively at 3,600 metres then it has to do with sports ethics and we must have an equal playing field."

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