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Upload-1-news.jpgJhoel Herrera and Alexis Salazar both played at different altitudes in their football careers. FIFPro asked the two defenders from Peru and Chile respectively to share their experiences of dealing with playing at high altitudes.

Click here to read the blog on Altitude by Dr Vincent Gouttebarge

Interviews by Ana Navarro (SIFUP, Chile) and Renzo Sanguineti (SAFAP, Peru).

 

Jhoel Herrera, Peru: “Ten days to adapt”

Jhoel Herrera is a right back of Real Garcaliso. He joined the club almost two years ago after having played for Cienciano since 2009. The city of Cusco, where both clubs play, is located at 3,400 metres above sea level.

‘The first four or five days during the preseason were hard, for the body experiences a severe lack of oxygen, but when that period goes by the organism starts to get adapted to the new situation, Herrera explains.

The 33-year old defender and former Peruvian international describes the physical sensations when playing at high altitude: ”I would define it in two parts: if you are in poor physical shape, the sensation is very tough: in comparison with playing on flat terrain, the lack of oxygen would feel thirty per cent worse, but if your physical state is optimal for top-level competition, the sensation is normal--except that in games requiring maximum effort, the feeling of not being able to breathe properly is intense but recovery to 100% is rapid.”

“In your first days at high altitude, you do get a headache and tire more rapidly, but as I said before it's only for the first four or five days. After that, I didn't have any headaches or tire rapidly throughout the tournament.”

Playing at high altitude could be an advantage, says Herrera: “To tell the truth, a local man playing at high altitude has better mastery than a rival who, arrives at that altitude with little time to adapt. Conversely, if the others have prior adaptation for a minimum of ten days, the competition becomes almost even.”

Herrera recommends all teams and players “a minimum adaptation of ten days to make the competition more equal. Otherwise, mental preparation is important and very good hydration days before competing at high altitude.”

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Alexis Salazar, Chile: “It’s difficult to get used to initially”

Alexis Salazar currently plays for Cobresal in Chile’s Primera Division. The club’s centre of operations is in the mining camp of El Salvador, more than 2,300 metres up in the middle of the Atacama Desert, in the municipality of Diego de Almagro, Atacama Region, in the foothills of the Andes. Its home turf is the El Cobre Stadium, which has a capacity of more than twenty thousand, almost three times the population of El Salvador.

Salazar is a native of the Bío Bío region, in southern Chile, and the 30-year old defender has spent a large part of his playing career in that area’s teams: Arturo Fernández Vial, Lota Schwager and Deportes Concepción.

Playing for Cobresal is his first experience in a different region—the north of the country—and he confesses that he did not find it easy to get used to the abrupt change, for the cities where he previously played were no more than twelve metres above sea level.

The altitude factor, something Salazar has had to accept in his new club, added to the change of city. “When I arrived in El Salvador, the climate was what I found hardest to get used to at the start. It’s very different from where I used to live, it being wetter and with more rain in the south”, he says.

The defender adds that, in the beginning, he suffered the physical consequences of not being very used to training at high altitude. “I would quickly find myself gasping for breath and suffering from nosebleeds in the early days, but as time passed I got adapted. In the second week, I no longer had any difficulties. It’s hard at the start, but as time goes by you get used to it and everything gets easier”.

“In this sense, the support of my wife and my eldest son has been very important. My son Emiliano was born a little while ago. I am loyal to my family—and to football”, he says.