EL ALTO, Bolivia – A stadium at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) in Bolivia’s high plateau, an enthusiastic fan base and a team with players of international standing are the main weapons in the armory of the newly-promoted Always Ready soccer club, which this year plans to secure for itself a ticket to a continental tournament.
The team has pumped up local excitement in El Alto, Bolivia’s second city with almost 1 million inhabitants and adjacent to La Paz, which for the first time has its own team in the country’s Professional Division.
The club’s Mexican coach, David De la Torre, told EFE that the goal for this year is to qualify “one way or another” for the South American Cup, South America’s secondary club soccer tournament, or, better yet, the Copa Libertadores, the region’s premier club competition.
With this in mind, the team has recruited a dozen players as reinforcements, while retaining a similar number from the original structure of the team that in December moved into the First Division after 27 years.
Always Ready, whose uniform resembles the one from Argentina’s River Plate, has been reinforced with Chile’s Raul Olivares as goaltender and with Paraguayan-Bolivian Nelson Cabrera and Cameroon’s Marc Enounba on defense.
Meanwhile, on offense is Swedish-Bolivian Martin Smedberg, Colombia’s Diego Echeverri and Uruguayan striker William Ferreira, joined by the experienced Marcos Ovejero, from Argentina, and Bolivia’s Augusto Andaveris, among others.
The hiring process was characterized as “very good” by De la Torre, 37, who is heading up his ninth professional team in Bolivia.
The Always Ready stronghold is the Villa Ingenio stadium, located at an altitude of 4,090 meters and considered to be the highest soccer venue in Bolivia, situated as it is on the edge of the altiplano plateau near the Andes mountain range.
The field is of artificial turf, which makes the ball “spin or turn differently” and “bounce differently,” according to what goalkeeper Olivares, who formerly played for Colo Colo and Cobreloa de Chile, told EFE.