Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FIFA - Soccer is for Wimps

FIFA, the world governing body for soccer (football for the rest of the world), has recently decided that games should not be played at altitudes over 2500 meters - 8200 feet for those of us who call it soccer. This ban will prevent Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia from hosting home games where they would normally be played.

Next up, I expect FIFA to ban games played in warm weather, or in areas with pollen, or in stadiums where the crowds are loud.

This decision does not reflect a concern for competitiveness or the integrity of the sport. Soccer's strength has always been that it is the international sport, played everywhere under a variety of conditions. When I was in Bolivia a couple years ago, I got into a pickup game with the local kids. According to FIFA, I should have whined about the altitude when they ran past me, and refused to allow them to celebrate their victory.

FIFA is dominated by the traditional power-houses of soccer, and they want to see their favored teams play in comfort. That's understandable, but they owe a higher duty to the international spirit of the sport, and their decision to restrict the international sport to European conditions is a farce. They need to rescind their decision, or cancel the next World Cup tournament. Perhaps they can substitute a "Sea Level Cup" tournament.

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24 Comments:

Blogger emawkc said...

I always find discussions about soccer to be so interesting... no, wait. What's that other word? Ah yes, I meant tedious.

5/30/2007 9:03 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Altitude has a big impact on endurance. I wouldn't fault FIFA, lots of prefessional tournaments have been moved from high to low altitudes, including professional tennis from Mexico City down to Acapulco. They couldn't get many of the professionals to play at 7,500 feet.

However, lots of soccer is played at about 7,200- 7,800 feet in Mex City at Estadio Azteca (seating maybe 110,000 people standing for a big game) and the other stadium in that city that is home to Cruz Azul. I think Azteca is one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world.

So plenty of soccer is played at high altitudes, and above 8,500 feet for professionals is tough and unfair if you're not used to it. Hell, at 7,500 feet its tough. So asking a few locales to relocate to lower climes doesn't seem to be too unreasonable.

5/30/2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream - I think you've proved my point. The day that you compare soccer players to professional tennis players is the day that the sport loses all credibility. Tennis players are a bunch of pampered rich-kid wimps who only play tennis because they were always picked last for team sports.

You forgot to mention that ice-dancing is usually performed below 8200 feet, too.

More seriously (though only slightly), the point is one of principle. Soccer is an international sport, and FIFA is restricting it to lowlands. It's tough and unfair to play in heat if you're not used to it. It's tough and unfair to play in cold if you're not used to it. It's tough and unfair to play in a noisy stadium full of uncouth hooligans if you're not used to it. Wah, wah, wah. Soccer is an international sport, and FIFA is restricting it to lowlands. FIFA is killing the universality of soccer, and that's a damned shame.

5/30/2007 11:49 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I know it's a little outside their jurisdiction, but do you think FIFA could try to ban baseball from being played in the vicinity of 435 and 70? It would improve my summer.

5/30/2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger emawkc said...

Jim, I can't remember the last time baseball was played in the vicinity of 435 and 70.

5/30/2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks emaw. That was the punchline I was hoping for.

5/30/2007 1:47 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, once again you seem to have "overlooked" my point. I'll chalk that up to your exhuberance rather than a low IQ.

Take a breath, and pay attention to a little common sense.

I used tennis simply as an analogy, and it is a serious sport that takes extended aerobic endurance. Altitude impacts aerobic performance moreso than any other factor than extreme heat. I was also providing an example that RELOCATING a game within the country to an acceptable altitude is a perfect example of how to manage this issue. It's been done before, with lots of different sports.

So can the stupid ice dancing references, they're irrelevant in this conversation.

Here's my point, and I'll make it simple for you so you can understand it: alot of soccer is played at high altitudes - Estadio Azteca is close to 7,800 feet and seats 110,000 for a game. Soccer will always be played at high altitudes, just not beyond someone's definition of extreme altitude.

So you're trying to tell me that soccer played at close to 8,000 feet is, as you say, "restricting it to lowlands"? That's a bunch of B.S. pal. Lots of soccer is played at high altitudes even with this new rule.

Let me repeat myself: SOCCER HAS AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE PLAYED AT HIGH ALTITUDES even with this new rule.

And let me clue you in on a reality of sports - if you want to draw teams into play in your country - Spanish teams, West African teams, Asian teams, European teams - you'll have a better chance doing it within a reasonable altitude range. It's not being "wimpy" as you would oversimplify and blather. it's merely common sense.

But as I am learning on this blog, common sense doesn't come easy to many of us.

5/30/2007 2:17 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream - kind of a grumpy grizzly bear today, huh? Where's that famous sense of humor?

Yes, I know that altitude has an impact on endurance. I've tried to play soccer at 9600 feet, and it had an impact. I suspect I could have played tennis without any problem, if there had been a posh country club nearby, but that's beside the point.

This is the first (to my knowledge, anyhow - please correct me if I'm wrong) geographic restriction on where the universal sport of soccer may be played. And that sucks. That is a terrible precedent to set, and it reflects the absolute wrong mindset. The point of international soccer is not to make certain the English and Germans can play comfortably.

While you're quick to question my intelligence, you're the one to think it noteworthy that a restriction on matches over 8200 feet does not mean that games may be played at 7200 feet. For now. Until FIFA decides that is not comfortable enough for the lowlanders.

Soccer is the best sport in the world, because it is a sport played all over the world. Drop a ball onto the street, and you can have a game in Iran, in the Ukraine, in China, in Australia, and in Colombia. But now FIFA has decided that soccer played in Colombia shouldn't count. It's not universal anymore.

For its entire existence, the Lowland Cup (f/k/a World Cup) has been decided through a series of home and away games. Now, FIFA, in all its Eurocentric glory, has decided that huge chunks of several nations no longer qualify - they are no longer part of the world for "World" Cup purposes.

Soccer is not tennis, and it is not ice dancing. Soccer, until 2007, was a world sport.

5/30/2007 3:36 PM  
Anonymous mexico city said...

Mainstream, you keep using Mexico City as an example, I am from the States but live in Mexico City. I do not think that any country should lose out on international games or world cups because of altitude. For example, What happens if they say that Mexico City is "extreme altitude", afterall it is only a couple of hundred feet difference? Then one of the greatest cities let alone football cities in the world will never host another World Cup. That would be catastrophic.

International Games are major events that help the economies of many struggling countries that will lose on this decision. Not to mention they are raising their noses to many countries where football is everything.

5/30/2007 3:42 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Hey Mex City - where do you live? I used to live near Lerma between Mex City & Toluca, right off of the Toluca toll road, and work in Sante Fe...

5/30/2007 4:17 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I lived in Los Encinos if you know where that is...

5/30/2007 4:18 PM  
Blogger les said...

Far be it from me to impersonate the voice of reason--I'm sure no one here would accuse me of such--but how many world cup/premier level games are actually effected by the ruling, and are any countries actually banned from a home game by the ruling? 8200 feet is no joke; NFL wimps whine about the advantage to the Donkeys of playing in the mile high city, after all. It seems far less a burden to have teams who practice at altitude, to play lower; they may in fact have an advantage in any case; while there is a definite detriment to lowlanders playing that high. What should decide outcomes--accident of location of practice site, or quality of team and play?

5/30/2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger les said...

It would appear that the countries effected are concerned more with losing competitive advantage, than with not being able to host games
http://tinyurl.com/2lvfl8

5/30/2007 4:25 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Good points Les. And it's so true, it's easier to play down than up.

And Dan, sorry, but I have been in a crappy mood today, must be the weather.

5/30/2007 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've watched lowland youth play soccer at 6500 feet. These are fit, well-trained athletes. Altitude sickness is a real problem - not just being a little winded. This isn't an issue of convenience or comfort, but safety. Now - when you start talking about 8200 feet, you are talking about a much more significant problem.

Can you name one country that would not be able to host the World Cup under this rule?

I'll bet you'd have a hard time taking a brisk walk for a mile at 8200 feet. Try playing 90 minutes of futbol at that altitude.

5/30/2007 5:10 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Anyone who prefers "soccer" to good ol' American FOOTBALL obviously wants The Terrorists to win.

5/30/2007 6:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Les - OMG!!! Somebody wants to host a soccer game so they can have a home field advantage?!?!?! OMG!!! After all these years of the English and Italians throwing batteries at opposing teams as special little welcoming gifts to encourage their play!

Anonymous - nothing a little coca tea won't take care of. I played at 9600 feet, and I was brilliant. The 7-year-olds who ran around me and scored at will were cheating, according to FIFA.

The ultimate truth of all this is that FIFA will no longer be sponsoring the "World Cup". They are cutting the world into soccer territory and non-soccer territory. Just to make sure the Germans are comfortable. That's sad.

5/30/2007 7:59 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I think I see your issue, Dan.

The way to resolve this is t0 understand, assess and then overcome.

This link should prove helpful:

http://www.changethatsrightnow.com/acrophobia.asp?SDID=6268:1339

5/31/2007 8:37 AM  
Blogger les said...

Dan said, variously:

"Soccer is an international sport, and FIFA is restricting it to lowlands."

"FIFA is killing the universality of soccer,"

"Somebody wants to host a soccer game so they can have a home field advantage?!?!?! OMG!!"

The above 3 statements--of many I could have chosen--indicate a dismaying and, dare I say, dangerous trend. First, an inflammatory non-sequitur: Dan has not demonstrated that his "lowland restriction" (a biased and deceptive term in itself) bars any nation from hosting games, or has any impact on the international character of soccer.
Second, another inflammatory and unsupported attack, with no evidence of a threat to universality.
Final, the shifting goal post; and we see that Dan's concern is not for a threat to soccer, but a threat to an insidious and unwarranted advantage held by an unstated, but subtly hinted at home team.

Yes, gentle readers, it is obvious that Dan has adopted--has in fact gone over to--the right...er, dark, yeah, dark...side. What is it? A hidden, vested interest? In over his head with the local bookie, taking odds on the Bolivian side? What really went on, during that allegedly innocent trip to South America? To, in fact, Bolivia?

We report, you decide.

5/31/2007 9:11 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Les! I think you hit on it. I have a theory that Dan, is, in fact, blogging from a high altitude (wirelessly from his laptop).

He must be above 15,000 feet, judging from his statements. The prolonged lack of oxygen seems to be disorienting him.

Let's all pray that he descends safely. If he says anything more, let's just agree with him. I don't want him to launch into another tirade and potentially risk his life.

I couldn't live with that on my conscious.

5/31/2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Les and Mainstream:

Thanks for your concern, but I'm fine. My money problems were all taken care of when I retrieved the balloon I swallowed before returning to the States. It was kind of a messy way to make money, but still preferable to practicing law.

Fact is, this is the first time that FIFA has said that the "World Cup" does not encompass the world - only those regions that Europeans feel comfortable in. That's just wrong.

6/01/2007 7:31 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Now Dan, that's simply not true. Soccer can be played in every country in the world, because every country in the world has alot of land that is below 8,200 feet, with the possible exceptions of Nepal and Tibet.

Do you really think that an 8,200 foot ceiling will exclude FIFA soccer from any country in the world?

I think not. Soccer will continue to be played worldwide.

6/01/2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Of course people will still play at elevations that the wimps from FIFA fear. But the home stadium of Bolivia is off limits. Yes, there are other places in the country to play, but not in the capital of the country.

FIFA is making a select few countries change their home stadiums for no good reason. Yes, FIFA soccer will be played in Bolivia, but it will be played in European conditions. The mountains are a huge part of what the country is - but Bolivia is not European enough for the Swiss-based FIFA, so they cannot host the games where they belong.

Seriously, how long until there are temperature restrictions? Or noise restrictions?

Pathetic.

6/01/2007 5:19 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Nice, Dan. You're defending holding soccer tournaments in La Paz?

Pilots that land in La Paz have to have special certifications to land. So, tell me Dan, do you think the Bolivian FAA is discriminating against itself?

This is from http://www.wideview.it/travel/Peru_Bolivia_2003/en_19.htm, the grammar problems are not mine, which is a nice change.

"With its 4050 metres of elevation, El Alto of La Paz is one of the world's highest airport. With an air thin like this, strange things happens and pilots are required to have a special certification to operate here. The airport is also surrounded on three sides by high terrain, exceeding 6000 metres of elevation and turbolence, as well as windshear on short final, isn't uncommon."

I'm surpirsed someone as "windy" as yourself could last ten minutes there.

6/01/2007 10:19 PM  

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