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Former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona played a charity match in Bolivia on Monday night and, although the international press has focused solely on the game’s significance to the recent FIFA ban on high altitude international soccer events, it is important to remember the real beneficiaries from the match.

The game, played at the Hernando Siles Stadium in Bolivia’s administrative capital of La Paz, raised money and much needed supplies for the victims of the disastrous floods that left 73 dead and 95,000 people homeless in the country’s northern Trinidad region. Spectators were charged a donation of rice, pasta, powdered milk, or canned food to enter the stadium, and Maradona refused to accept an appearance fee for the match.

Extreme climatic events caused by the La Nina phenomenon have affected Bolivia since November 2007, with floods, mudslides, and landslides causing death, injury, illness, and internal displacement. The most vulnerable communities have lost their livelihoods and income, in many cases for the third subsequent year. The floods are expected to continue through April.

Monday’s soccer match featured the Bolivian team – led by Bolivian president Evo Marales – that competed at the 1994 World Cup in the United States versus a team of former Argentine soccer stars, including Alejandro Mancuso, Diego Latorre, Esteban Pogany, and Mathias Almeyda. The final score of the match, played in front of over 20,000 passionate supporters, was 7-4 to the Argentine team, with three goals scored by Maradona.

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