The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final will now be played in Spain next month. How did it end up like this and what happens now?
There was some expectation, given the increasingly farcical situation unfolding in the Copa Libertadores final, that Boca Juniors might be given a walkover after the second leg against arch rivals River Plate was called off due to fan violence.
A pulsating but generally good-natured first leg had ended 2-2 at Boca’s home ground, but the return fixture at River’s Monumental last Saturday would descend into chaos when windows were broken on the away side’s team bus, leaving some players vomiting from tear gas inhalation and two in hospital with cuts suffered from flying shards of glass.
Barely 24 hours after the original fixture was called off and with things seemingly at rock bottom, they managed to worsen still when the game was postponed for a second time, with fans already back inside the ground and awaiting kick-off.
Comments followed from Boca president Daniel Angelici stating CONMEBOL, South America’s football association, should disqualify River altogether, while opposite number Rodolfo D’Onofrio said he was sure the game would be played, at the Moneumental, in front of River’s fans.
Fast forward five days and there has been no walkover but no re-arrangement in Buenos Aires either. So what has happened in one of elite club football’s messiest weeks?
The game in Spain
CONMEBOL met in Paraguay on Tuesday to discuss their next move, by which point Italian side Genoa had already offered to host the game at the Stadio Luigi Ferarris, with other reports claiming it could be held in Qatar.
That evening CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez ignored Genoa’s offer and telephoned Real Madrid head Florentino Perez to enquire whether the Bernabeu might be used instead. Perez offered the usage of Real’s stadium for free – and with the logistics later confirmed on Thursday, Dominguez told reporters: “Spain is the country with the largest Argentine population outside of its country.
“Florentino told me that the Bernabeu is available for us to use and completely cost-free. CONMEBOL doesn’t want to make any money out of this. We are going to create a fund with the money that this match gathers, which will be used to fight against violence in football.
“Those of us who know the beautiful game, know that it is only about winning or losing – not killing or dying for.”
The match will be played at 7.30pm on December 9, but unlike the original fixture fans of both teams will be allowed into the stadium. In Argentina, away fans have been banned from Superclasico games since 2013.
It puts both sides in a pickle – as the winner has a game to play at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on December 15.
How come River were not punished?
River Plate did not get off scot-free – the club has been handed a $400,000 (£310,000) fine and a two-match stadium ban.
However, Boca did not consider that enough. President Angelici said before the re-arrangement was announced: “We are going to go to the Court of Appeal of CONMEBOL, we are going to exhaust all the administrative instances that we have inside the agency, if we have to go to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, we will go.”
On Thursday, hours before the Bernabeu date was announced, D’Onofrio shot back, saying: “Let’s play the game, let’s not invent things, you signed [an agreement] with me. You gave me and the CONMEBOL president your word and now you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.”
Angelici has not spoken publicly since the decision, and has not confirmed whether Boca are continuing their attempts to have River thrown out of the competition.
Will any Argentinian fans make it to Madrid?
Argentina is in the middle of a mini financial crisis after a run on the peso, its national currency, earlier this year. One peso was worth around 4.5p a year ago, now its exchange rate is less than half that.
Even without that, Argentinian media have put a 40,000 peso cost on even the cheapest weekend round trip to Madrid – the equivalent of around £1,500.
For a Buenos Aires resident earning the average wage in the city, that amounts to more than a month’s salary.
Who should we look out for, and has the team news changed from the first game?
There could be a return for Boca captain Pablo Perez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, who were both hospitalised in the attack on Saturday, but in addition Cristian Pavon, who was injured in the first game and looked set to miss the second, may be fit to play. The forward will be one to look out for, having been a key part of Boca’s back-to-back title winning team.
More controversially, River Plate striker Ignacio Scocco, who was only a few days away from being fit for the originally scheduled second leg, will likely play some part in Madrid.
He has scored 22 goals in 43 starts for River over the past two seasons, and netted the second in their 2-0 win over Boca in the Supercopa Argentina in March.