Morales Joins Bolivian Soccer Team
March 27, 2008 - Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- President Evo Morales, whose soccer skills helped launch his political career, has signed on with a minor league team in La Paz.

The 47-year-old Morales is listed as a reserve player for Litoral, an amateur second-division squad organized by the Bolivia's national police, Renato Arellano, president of the La Paz Soccer Association's technical committee, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Litoral could eventually rise to Bolivia's top professional league if it manages to win a long series of qualifying tournaments this year.

Morales' soccer skills helped him get into politics. As a young man, his play on a local coca-growers' team caught the eye of leaders in Bolivia's largest coca-growers' union, which named him its head of sports. He eventually became union president, launching his career.

Since his 2005 election as Bolivia's first indigenous president, he keeps in practice with regular public games with palace staffers and retired Bolivian stars.

Morales has been an outspoken opponent of a FIFA ban on international matches hosted at high altitudes. Last month, he hosted a charity match in the Bolivian capital -- 11,800 feet above sea level -- against an Argentine squad led by retired superstar Diego Maradona.