Pele throws himself into altitude debate

June 5, 2008

SANTIAGO, June 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's Pele has criticised FIFA's recent decision to lift a ban on playing World Cup qualifiers at more than 2,750 metres above sea level.

'If we are thinking about equality and protecting the players, if there's a chance to play in a lower city in the same country it would be better for the protection of the players,' he told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Santiago.

FIFA last month reversed a ruling that banned matches at high altitude. Their decision will allow Bolivia to stage games in their traditional venue La Paz, 3,600m above sea level, and for Ecuador to host matches in the capital Quito at 2,800m.

Pele's opinion is in contrast to that of Argentina great Diego Maradona, who has spoken out in favour of allowing La Paz to stage games and in March played in a charity game there with Bolivia President Evo Morales.

Morales led a high-profile campaign against the FIFA ban.