High-altitude football stadium so high above sea level Messi was sick on pitch

Whether it's by scoring an outrageous long-range effort, twisting through a maze of defenders, or curling an inch-perfect cross-field pass to put a teammate through on goal, barely a game goes by where Lionel Messi doesn't leave an audience awestruck.

Considered by many to be the greatest player to ever kick a football, the little Argentine is an absolute master of taking people's breath away.

But what about the time Messi's breath was taken away – causing him to throw up on the pitch?

Let's rewind eight years, shall we?

Estadio Hernando Siles is the Bolivian national side's home stadium, situated in the nation's capital, La Paz.

The stadium has become a very serious weapon in Bolivia's arsenal, as well as a source of international controversy.

The reason? It sits among the mountains in the north-eastern Andes, some 3,637 metres above sea level, making it one of the highest sports stadiums in the world.

At that sort of altitude, athletes need a week or two to acclimatise because the air is so thin and as a result, the Bolivians typically gain a significant physical advantage against foreign opponents.

Because of this, a trip to the Estadio Hernando Siles has become a dreaded one for teams across South America, particularly given how Bolivia have established quite a formidable home record there, as Argentina discovered to their cost in 2013 during a World Cup qualifier.

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It took just 45 minutes for the high altitude to impact the visitors, with Messi chucking up on the pitch as the half-time whistle blew, and teammate Angel Di Maria needing an oxygen mask.

After the match, which ended 1-1, the Argentinians were simply thankful it was over.

"It is terrible to play here at altitude, so a draw is a good result for us. Every time you make an effort or play at high pace, you need time to recover," Messi said.

"Some of the players had a headache and others felt a bit dizzy."

Brazil were the first to complain about the unsuitability of the venue after losing 2-0 to Bolivia in 1993, which was remarkably the country's first ever defeat in a World Cup qualifier.

In 2009, another stunning result saw Argentina walloped 6-1 in the unforgiving stadium – their worst defeat in 60 years – though manager Diego Maradona refused to blame the altitude.

Instead, he insisted his team of superstars, which included the likes of Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Javier Zanetti were simply outclassed by the Bolivians, who lost 11 out of 18 games during the qualifying campaign.

Two years earlier, FIFA introduced a ban on international matches played at more than 2,500 metres above sea level.

The ruling sparked outrage in Bolivia, and the country's president, Evo Morales, accused FIFA of discrimination, and even branding the ban "football apartheid".

"This is not only a ban on Bolivia, but it is also a ban on the universality of sports," he said during an emergency cabinet meeting at the time.

Morales vowed to lead a campaign against the ruling, and was later joined by Maradona who took part in an hour-long game in the stadium to show the world that if a 47-year-old could play there, so could young, professional athletes.

A year later, the ban was rescinded.

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