Wednesday, May 30, 2007

IT'S CALLED HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR A REASON

FIFA has proposed a ban on playing international soccer matches at altitudes higher than 2,500m, a proposal that is dividing South American nations along lines of high and low altitude venues.

Fifa says there are fears that the high altitude can harm players' health and possibly distort competition.
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Bolivian President Evo Morales has called a meeting of officials from Latin American countries that play their home games at altitude.
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All the affected nations deny they have used high-altitude grounds to gain a competitive advantage.
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Peruvian and Bolivian soccer officials laid the blame for the decision on Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The team doctor of the Peruvian national team, Javier Arce, said matches should also be banned at hot and humid venues in lower-lying countries.
[BBC]
The claim that certain countries do not use venues at high altitudes to give them an advantage is obviously false - but so what? That's one of the factors of home field advantage in international soccer, and it's one of the reasons World Cup qualifying matches are played on a home-and-away basis.

It is no coincidence to me that it is Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay spearheading this movement against Bolivia, Ecuador and others. The former three are, of course, the only three South American nations to have won the World Cup. This decision smacks of standard FIFA politics in which the heavyweights of international football use their clout to dominate the middle weights before they even step on the field.

The Peruvian counter-claim that an equivalent ban should be placed against playing at humid lower-lying venues can be followed to its logical conclusion.

Eventually international matches would only be allowed in temperate climates, at temperatures between 15-25 degrees, with humidity between 45%-60%, winds of no more than 15km/h, unless of course they're from the North and then no more than 5km/h, with a stable barometric pressure, not within an hour of high or low tide if played within 100km of the ocean, and home team supporters will not be allowed to produce noise above a 100 decibels and shall be limited to a maximum of three songs per half.

Every soccer stadium has its own unique advantages for the home team; it's part of sport. FIFA, yet again, is choosing politics over the good of the game.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:20 PM