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By ESPN Staff

FIFA lifts altitude ban

Soccer's world governing body has bowed to pressure from South America and backed down from its ban on international matches played at high altitude.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the executive committee, meeting in Sydney ahead of the 58th FIFA Congress later this week, had agreed to temporarily suspend the altitude ruling.

Blatter proposed replacing the altitude ban with a package of laws regulating "Football Under Extreme Conditions" - including heat, humidity and cold as well as pollution.

A FIFA resolution last year restricted international matches above 2,750 metres to only those games in which visiting players had enough time to acclimatise to less oxygen-rich atmosphere.

Bolivian capital La Paz, at 3,600m in the Andes, and Quito, Ecuador at 2,830m were the chief cities affected by the ban.

Bolivian president Evo Morales accused FIFA for imposing "soccer apartheid" on teams that play at high altitudes and nine nations of the South American confederation - excluding Brazil - sent a written plea to Blatter to revoke the altitude ban.

Blatter admitted the one-off altitude ban was single focused and FIFA's medical commission had recommended that regulating for a "package" of environmental factors would be better.

"Let us reopen the discussion," he said.

Qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup can now go ahead at the high-altitude venues while FIFA considers changes to laws for match conditions at international and domestic club level.

Blatter conceded that FIFA had taken into account lobbying from South America, including a "harsh" letter last month from Morales and a more cordial appeal for the sport's governing body to "advocate for the good of the game".


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