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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 4, 2008

Brazil criticised for not backing Bolivia altitude ban

ASUNCION, April 3 (Reuters) - Brazil came under fire from fellow members of the South American Football Confederation (CSF) on Thursday for failing to support Bolivia over a ban on matches at high altitude.

Brazil refused to join the nine other federations in signing a declaration of support for Bolivia, who have been barred from playing World Cup qualifiers in La Paz under a FIFA ruling.

It was a rare split at the CSF, where decisions tend to be unanimous and which gave Brazil full support in its bid to stage the 2014 World Cup.

In 2003, the CSF voted unanimously to back Brazil as its only candidate to host the event, which is being held in South America under FIFA's rotation policy. Brazil were awarded the tournament by FIFA last year after standing unopposed.

'Unfortunately, we did not have the same consensus as we had when everyone backed Brazil's candidacy to organise the 2014 World Cup,' said Manuel Burga, president of the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF).

Carlos Chavez, president of the Bolivian federation, said Brazilian officials had told him they did not want to go against the country's clubs, who are strongly opposed to games at high altitude.

'It's something which we are unhappy about because the CSF's philosophy is to not have any divisions, as this strengthens our policies elsewhere,' he said.

FIFA ruled last month that matches could only be played above 2,750 metres if visiting teams were given one week to acclimatise and above 3,000m if they were given two weeks.

La Paz lies at 3,600m while the Ecuadorean capital Quito is 2,800m above sea level.

This effectively makes it impossible for them to stage World Cup qualifiers as European clubs only have to release their players five days in advance.

Bolivia have protested furiously about the ruling, first introduced last year and then temporarily dropped, and President Evo Morales has led a campaign against it.

Thursday's declaration, which carried the signatures of all the South American federation presidents apart from Brazil's Ricardo Teixiera, reiterated opposition to FIFA's measure.

'We want the World Cup qualifiers to be played in the same cities where they were held previously, which in Bolivia's case is La Paz,' said CSF President Nicolas Leoz.

Leoz said the FIFA ruling would not be extended to the Libertadores Cup, the region's equivalent of Europe's Champions League.

'The South American Confederation organises its tournaments according to its own rules,' Leoz told reporters.

'The competition will be played according to the rules and the clubs will play in their own stadiums.'

Four clubs currently involved in the Libertadores -- LDU of Ecuador, Real Potosi and San Jose of Bolivia and Cienciano of Peru -- are based in cities over 2,750m.

The CSF decision is likely to infuriate Brazilian clubs such as Flamengo, who have been lobbying intensively for FIFA's ban to be extended to the Libertadores.

After drawing 2-2 with Real Potosi at nearly 4,000m last year, Flamengo said they would refuse to play at high altitude again. Potosi responded by saying they did not like playing in Rio de Janeiro because of the heat and mosquitoes.

Flamengo are due to travel to Cienciano on April 9.

Leoz said a letter would be sent to the Brazilian Football Confederation, reminding them of their duty to obey the rules and respect the CSF's statutes.

'The clubs who do not turn up for matches will be sanctioned,' said Bolivian federation president Chavez.

Directors said clubs could face elimination and a three-year suspension if they failed to play a game.