Maradona shows his skills in high-altitude soccer match

Maradona shows his skills in high-altitude soccer match

Diego Maradona and President Evo Morales matched skills on Monday.

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La Paz (Bolivia): Football great Diego Maradona and President Evo Morales matched skills on Monday at a charity game in Bolivia's mountain capital aimed at rejecting a FIFA ban on high-altitude international matches.

The two 47-year-olds played every minute of Monday's spirited hour-long game, delighting 25,000 fans from both countries at Hernando Siles stadium in La Paz, high in the Andes at 11,800 feet (3,600 meters) above sea level.

Maradona's diamond earrings flashed in the mountain sunlight as he led a team of retired Argentine all-stars to a 7-4 victory over Morales' motley squad of several dozen former Bolivian greats, palace staffers, security guards and local television newcasters.

"I speak for all of Argentina when I say that we do not fear the altitude," Maradona told the cheering crowd at halftime. "All of us have to play where were we were born, my brothers and sisters."

"Not even God can ban that - much less (Joseph) Blatter," he added, referring to the president of FIFA, football's governing body.

FIFA last week ratified a rule requiring players to arrive at the host city a week before international games above 9,000 feet (2,750 meters), and two weeks for matches higher than 9,800 feet (3,000 meters), to allow time to adjust to the thin air.

With football teams' complicated travel schedules, the rule essentially bans high-altitude games. FIFA has expressed concern about possible negative health effects on lowland players, and said that high-altitude games would give highland nations like Bolivia a greater home-field advantage.

Chile announced on Monday it would ignore the FIFA ruling for its upcoming World Cup qualifying match against Bolivia and play the June 14 game as originally scheduled in La Paz.

Maradona scored three goals to Morales' one.

As he departed the field after the final whistle, a winded Maradona pounded his chest and issued his verdict on playing at high altitude.

"Yes you can!" he hollered.

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