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perspectives | by Eduardo Avila | March 15, 2004 at 07:39 PM | comments (3) | trackback (0)

The Bolivian Football Federation (FBF), not especially known for their bright ideas, decided it wanted to present an extravagant halftime show during the March 30 World Cup qualifying match in La Paz. However, the company that owns advertising rights to the game politely denied the request from the FBF.

The performance was to involve some 400 dancers starring El Diablo. Not Marco Antonio Etcheverry (a.k.a. El Diablo), but the star of the Diablada dance from the
world-renowned Oruro Carnaval.

I don't think the agency was worried that the Diablo would be overly explicit and show some skin, but they claimed that the halftime show would obstruct views of the billboards around the perimeter of the field. Sure that sounds like a reasonable explanation until you take into consideration Bolivia's opponent that afternoon.

For this sudden surge of cultural pride, one can only thank Chile. The Chilean national team will visit Hernando Siles stadium on the 30th and it is shaping to be much more than just a football match. Unfortunately, Chileans are the victims of nationalistic ire from their neighbors to the East. Much of this anger comes from the lost access to the Pacific Ocean in the early 20th Century and compounded by recent proposal to export natural gas through a Chilean port.

But why the Diablada? It is only one of the many unique and colorful folkloric dances that all regions of the country proudly claim as their own. Wait, during the recent Viña del Mar festival in the city of the same name, Chileans were supposedly presenting the exact same dance as one of their own, under the name 'Tirana'. So the FBF wanted to send a message to the Chileans, that they can take our sea, but they can't take our folkloric dances.

This game has gained a bit more notoriety due to these political conflicts adding fuel to the fire to a must-win for both teams. I don't quite understand the advertising agencies reasons for denying the request. The show would only take about 8 minutes and normally wouldn't be shown during the televised broadcast. Halftime is usually reserved for recapping the first half action and other commercials. Without a halftime show, the spectators use that time to buy refreshments, stretch, or go to the bathroom, not to ponder the wonderfulness of products being pitched. I think the major reason is that the publicity company does not want to anger Chilean companies that do business with them.

To make things even more eerie, the new Bolivian head coach is a naturalized Chilean who led his new country to the 1998 World Cup. He has become involved in a war of words with current Chilean coach, Juvenal Olmos. Olmos accused Acosta to be the mastermind behind the proposed halftime show because he was hoping to stir up some increased hostility to the visiting Chileans. Acosta claimed he was no "showman" and that Olmos is clueless by resorting to crazy tactics trying to counteract the effects of the altitude, i.e. such as training with hyperbaric chambers to increase oxygen supply.

Now the FBF has sought the advice of the Ministry of External Relations to come up with a compromise. Whether a compromise can reached, this certainly will not be an added boost to the Bolivian team. This is no longer one of the 14 remaining games on the road to qualifying to Germany 2006, it is now a question of national pride and self-identity. If Bolivia does not win the game convincingly, will the crowd and the country see it as another sign of Chilean dominance? Bolivian fans are notoriously fickle, when it comes to these things. Anything sort of a runaway victory is never enough and too much hostility and passion could have an adverse effect on the team's performance.

Update: FIFA (the international football governing body) overruled and has decided to allow Bolivia to present the extravagant halftime show. As it stands, some 250 musicians and 500 dancers will participate.


Interesting post, I think both teams have lots of pressure, it should be a great match. My call is Bolivia 1 - Chile 0.

Posted by Daniel | March 16, 2004 08:19 AM

Viva el Tigre!

Posted by Joe Brown | March 17, 2004 10:29 AM

your pix of bolivia is covering the typing i can't get a bit of info off the website so this website is completely useless to me!!

Posted by jordan | April 28, 2004 08:38 PM

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