Zurich, Switzerland:South America's 10-nation soccer confederation is turning to medical experts in its fight against a new FIFA ban on playing international games more than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level.
The decision - which would exclude many stadiums in Bolivia as well as ones in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Chile and CONCACAF member Mexico - outraged fans, soccer officials and governments in Latin America. Street protests were held across the Andes on Wednesday in reaction to the FIFA announcement on Sunday.
"We are very sad. Our country adores football," Francisco Acosta, general secretary of the Ecuador soccer federation, said at FIFA's 57th annual congress on Wednesday in Zurich. "Don't worry, we are going all out to get this ruling overturned. We support the street protests."
Acosta said CONMEBOL, the South American federation, had not yet met with FIFA President Sepp Blatter to discuss the issue.
Medical experts on high altitude will present their opinions to CONMEBOL on June 14 in Asuncion, Paraguay. The next day, the presidents from all 10 South American soccer federations hope to draw up a unified proposal on high-altitude games for FIFA.
Five members are particularly upset at the ban: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Chile. Acosta said Mexico was also "lending its support."
Technical not political
In La Paz, Bolivian President Eva Morales said on Wednesday that three other South American nations back overturning the FIFA ban: Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina. But at the FIFA congress, Uruguay officials denied that was true and Argentine officials would not comment on the subject.
"This is not a political issue, it's a technical issue," said Eduardo Ache from Uruguay's delegation. "It's very clear that we will not abide by any political decision. And we don't accept pressure from people outside the family of football."
Only Venezuela confirmed it supported Bolivia.
"The Venezuelan Football Federation fully supports Bolivia," said Rafael Esquivel, the president of the Venezuelan association. "Venezuela always plays against Bolivia in La Paz. We have no problem with that."
FIFA took the decision Sunday after a review by its medical team, citing a concern for players' health and home-field advantage of high-altitude teams over their visiting lowland rivals.
The ruling eliminates international games in the Bolivian capital of La Paz and other major Bolivian cities as well as in the Colombian capital of Bogota, the Ecuadorean capital Quito and the Peruvian city of Cuzco.
Bolivia has held World Cup qualifiers in La Paz, about 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) high. Colombia's capital Bogota, at 2,650 meters (8,700) above sea level, would also be affected by the ban as well as Ecuador's capital Quito at 2,800 meters (9,200 feet). Peru also has stadiums above 3,000 meters (9,840 feet).
Most of Mexico City falls under the limit at 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) but Toluca - Mexico's most successful club in recent years - is above the limit.
Bolivian officials have accused South American rivals and soccer powerhouses Argentina and Brazil of being behind the move, but other Latin American soccer officials disagreed on Wednesday.