KEIR RADNEDGE from SOUTH AMERICA —- The violence-torn second leg of the Copa Liberadores final was postponed for a second time over the weekend because of the Boca Juniors players’ trauma and physical injuries after hooligans attacked their team bus on the way to face neighbours River Plate in Buenos Aires.
Saturday’s game was postponed until Sunday but, after Boca complained that their players were in no state to play, South American confederation CONMEBOL decided on a further postponement to a date to be decided. Boca sources indicated the club was considering registering a demand for a walkover victory accompanied by the threat of legal action.
A further complication is the possible effect of security chaos on the prospects for the Buenoes Aires hosting later this week of the leaders of the G20 leading nations.
Dominguez said River had not wanted to play the final if “conditions of equality” were not present. That contradicted the club’s statement a few minutes earlier in which it said only that “River Plate will comply with the provisions by the organizing entity. ”
He also insisted that the second leg would be played at a date to be agreed on Tuesday, rejecting Boca’s claim to be granted a walkover to the South American crown. A meeting between all parties, including club presidents Rodolfo D’Onofrio of River and Daniel Angelici of Boca will be held at CONMEBOL headquarters in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Dominguez said: “We are going to postpone and look for the right date and time for the final to be played.” He defended CONMEBOL itself from criticism of incompetence and chaos.
His statement was greeted with jeers and boos by a significant number of fans who were already inside the Estadio Monumental.
Visiting fans are not permitted at matches in Argentina for fear of violence but River Plate ultras bombarded the Boca team bus with bottles and stones on Saturday after setting up a roadblock near the Estadio Monumental which appeared to take the police by surprise.
Police reaction with tear gas added to the chaos and Boca players, when they reached the safety of the stadium, had been cuts from broken glass and breathing difficulties.
The driver collapsed, a number of players – including Carlos Tevez, Fernando Gago, Julio Buffarini, Agustín Almendra, Nahitán Nandez and Darío Benedetto – were physically sick.
Boca general secretary Christian Gribaudo said: “The players are all injured so it’s impossible to play.” That prediction was confirmed formally two and a half hours after the scheduled kickoff by Dominguez.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino was present but later denied reports that he had been included in the crisis meetings along with he club presidents and Argentinian federation president Claudio Tapia.
Violence escalated around the outside of the stadium, which hosted the World Cup Final in 1978. Police reported 36 arrests though all were later released. Also arrested was a mother who had strapped flares to her child to bring them unnoticed into the stadium.
Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta blamed the bus attack as retaliation after an incident 24 hours earlier when police raided the house of a leader of River’s Barra Brava hooligan fringe. Police confiscated 10 millions pesos (£207,285) and 300 tickets for the final.
Larreta said: “The problem is the Barra Brava, a mafia who have been embedded in football for more than 50 years.
“They are responsible for these incidents. This is directly related to the episode the day before. So 300 people were not allowed in and they were the principle protagonists of everything that happened.”
Three years ago River players were attacked with pepper spray in the protective players’ tunnel before a Libertadores tie away to Boca.
The first leg of this year’s final had to be postponed 24 hours because of heavy rain and the second leg was never going to be an ordinary match either – 90 minutes that could become 120 in the event of the teams being all square on aggregate, and then a penalty shootout if a winner still cannot be found. The first leg ended all-square at 2-2 but there is no away goals rule.
CONMEBOL is among the most discredited of major football confederations. It was raddled by corruption for years and many South American federation presidents and officials were among those indicted in the United States authorities’ FIFAGate scandal investigation.
In the past year Dominguez has called for an increase in numbers at the World Cup finals and, only last week, that the World Cup be played every two years.
After the weekend events CONMEBOL is becoming a laughing stock for making fatuous demands of the international game when it cannot properly organise its own competitions.