Victory over neighbours Peru
This Sunday, Bolivia took on Peru in a derby between the two countries of the Altiplano. La Verde”, the nickname of the Bolivian national team, came from behind to win 1-0 after a goal by Ramiro Vaca in the 82nd minute. In Bolivia, as in the rest of South America, football is a veritable religion, the only difference being that here, the game is played at an altitude of 3,600 metres, which makes it difficult for foreign teams, even though they are reputed to be stronger, such as Argentina and Brazil, against whom Bolivia have already won at the Stadio Hernando Siles in La Paz. In the league, some teams even play at altitudes in excess of 4,000 metres, such as Real Potosi, Nacional Potosi and current league leaders Always Ready, who play at an altitude where the slightest effort can become extremely difficult, at 4,090 metres in the town of El Alto.
A national attachment to high altitude gaming
The Hernando Siles stadium, where the national team plays most of its matches, has been the subject of much controversy due to its altitude. Fifa even came close to banning matches at high altitude, before finally granting an exemption to the stadium. The government had put pressure on Fifa to preserve this unique feature of the Andean countries. For the record, in 2007, Evo Morales, then President of Bolivia, organised and took part in a football match at an altitude of 6,542 metres, on the summit of Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak. He even scored the only goal of the match. Evo Morales is a passionate football fan, and even played professionally for a year. The match was organised to protest against Fifa’s decisions and to prove that football and high altitude are not incompatible, and of course he holds the record for the highest altitude for a football match! A few weeks ago, the “Cholitas Escaladoras”, a group of women mountaineers famous in the country for having climbed the highest peaks in the world, were back at it again.
A must-see for football fans
During your trip to Bolivia, attending a football match is a unique experience! There is, of course, the “Classico Boliviano” between Bolivar and Strongest, the two clubs from La Paz, as well as many matches involving the national team, “La Verde”. Even if the standard is a little lower than that of its big South American neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, the fervour around La Verde matches is exceptional, making them an unforgettable experience on a trip to Bolivia. Bolivia hopes one day to qualify for a World Cup finals. More and more young Bolivians are playing in foreign leagues, like the promising young Ramiro Vaca, who at just 22 is already playing in the Belgian top flight, as well as Marcelo Martins, striker at Cruzeiro in Brazil, and Boris Cespedes, the young midfielder at Servette in Switzerland. In Bolivia, football is a real passion that unites all the people behind their national team. Proud of its players, but also proud of this particularity that is sport at high altitude, football fans, and even the government, have shown on numerous occasions that they will fight to preserve this particularity, and to be able to continue playing in the stadiums of the altiplano. The next time you travel, be sure to check the Bolivian league calendar and book your tickets. Whether you’re a fervent football fan or just an amateur, it’s sure to be a great experience!