KEIR RADNEDGE in MONTEVIDEO —- Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu will host the scandal-scarred South American club showdown between River Plate and Boca Juniors.
The second leg of the 2018 final of the Copa Libertadores should be played in the Spanish capital on Sunday, December 9 at 8.30pm CET by order of South American confederation CONMEBOL.
Whether it had obtained approval from both the European governing body UEFA and the Spanish federation was not immediately clear. Only last month, ironically, FIFA prohibited the Spanish league from taking a game between Barcelona and Girona to Miami.
Thus airlifting the Copa clash out of not only Argentina but South America presents sports politics issues as well as a security headache for the Spanish authorities after events last weekend in Buenos Aires.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez, after a second crisis meeting in three days, said: “I want to thank the Prime Minister of Spain [Pedro Sanchez], the president of FIFA [Gianni Infantino] and personally my friend [the Real Madrid president] Florentino Perez, and all the cities that have expressed their intention that this grand finale, much loved by us, can be staged in other destinations.
Plea to fans
“The decision is for the match to be played with both sets of fans in the city of Madrid . . . The doors are open for all fans who support the good of football. ”
Away fans are barred from major club matches in Argentina and the Copa Libertadores final was no exception.
Dominguez hailed Madrid as “the ideal city” for the game and again condemned the violence which forced last weekend’s postponement.
He said: “The barrasbravas should not even think about travelling, there’s no place for them. I sympathise with those who were attacked and their families. I appeal to the two clubs to send a message of love and peace. Football is not violence, football is love and we have to take care of it.
“We are facing an exceptional situation and we had to look for an alternative city, we believe that the city of Madrid has all the conditions we need.”
FIFA will be pleased that a solution has been found after speculation that the game might be staged in Abu Dhabi or Miami or Doha. The world federation needs the eventual South American champions to play in the reputationally-fragile Club World Cup in December.
A separate disciplinary committee meeting fined River $400,000 and ordered them to play their next two home international competition games behind closed doors. River are likely to appeal on the grounds that the initial attack on the Boca team bus last weekend occurred outside the stadium zone and was thus, notionally, the responsibility of police.
The punishment fell far short of Boca’s demand that the second leg, and thus the Copa, be awarded to them on a walkover. The rain-delayed first leg at Boca’s Bombonera had ended in a 2-2 draw.
Boca president Daniel Angelici has promised to appeal to CONMEBOL and, if unsatisfied, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
This is the biggest club clash in the history of Argentinian football, staged in the context of one of the games greatest and fiercest city derbies.
Torrential rain prevented possible fan violence at the first leg but exploded hours before the return in River’s Estadio Monumental when the Bca team bus was ambushed. The extent of the injuries of the Boca players, and especially captain Pablo Pérez who returned from hospital with a massive patch over his left eye, remains a contentious matter.