Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, May 31, Time
Imagine the NFL deciding that
"Absurd!"; "Degrading!"; "An attack on our people and way of life," are just some of the responses heard in La Paz from President Evo Morales and local soccer officials all the way down to street vendors. Within hours of the ruling,
Thousands of children flooded out of
Commentators on the streets sensed a conspiracy: "It's those Brazilians," noted taxi-driver Juan Gonzales, even though the ruling came from FIFA President Joseph Blatter in Zurich, reelected this week to a third consecutive term in office. "They and the Argentines pressured FIFA because they don't like that they lose sometimes when they play in
The mighty Brazilians have certainly suffered more than their fair share of upset defeats in
Bolivians also point out that the medical report on which FIFA based its decision is not exactly solid science. Rather than demonstrating that high altitude poses a threat to players, according to Bolivian news reports on the report, it admits there is little real health risk and that altitude acclimatization is so personal that generalizations can't be made.
"High-altitude international soccer competition has never caused a player serious health problems and it certainly has never killed anyone," notes Bolivian sports medicine specialist Dr. Guillermo Aponte. "On the contrary, high heat and humidity has cost several lives. If FIFA really wanted to protect players they wouldn't be focusing on altitude."
Health, though, is only part of the issue. In
The other affected countries, plus
Meanwhile, the unifying effect of the soccer snub certainly has its political advantages. "We can use this to overcome our regional differences," commented 16-year-old Sandra Reyes, reflecting on the east vs. west internal conflict that threatens to tear apart her country.
"Yeah! We've got to unite by all playing more soccer," sang the chorus of teenagers surrounding Reyes. Clad in their school's soccer uniform, the youngsters had just spent the day watching their President take several long shots on goal.