Copa Libertadores final officially suspended for second time
Game has already been put back from Saturday night when Boca bus was attacked
A supporter of River Plate faces the riot police in the surroundings of the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires ahead of the Copa Libertadores final. Photo: Ivan Pisarenko/Getty Images
It had been dubbed the final to end all finals, but nobody has any idea if or when it will ever start. The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors, initially scheduled for Saturday, had been rescheduled for 5pm on Sunday after an attack on the Boca team bus, but was cancelled at 2pm. There will now be a meeting in Asunción on Tuesday to decide where and when the final will be played.
Conmebol president Alejandro Domínguez said that the “equal” conditions Boca had demanded could not be guaranteed. He said he did not know “when or where” the game would be played, if it ever is. That inclusion of “where” suggested than serious consideration is being given to playing the game away from El Monumental. The “when” is pressing given the Club World Cup begins on December 12th and Conmebol needs a representative.
Three Boca players had been left needing medical attention after their bus was attacked, a fusillade of missiles shattering windows and admitting teargas, leaving a number of players feeling nauseous. How serious the injuries were remains something of a mystery. After an attempt was made to play the game at 7.30pm on Saturday, Conmebol’s medical team had insisted that none of the players were too badly affected to play. Pablo Pérez, the Boca midfielder who went to hospital with eye problems after the attack, was then included in the starting lineup before the game was postponed, but his ophthamolgist had told him today that he should not play.
The statement Boca released on Sunday morning was vague, perhaps wilfully so. What, after all, are “equal conditions”? It hinted at a desire for abandonment – and as Carlos Tevez pointed out, when River players suffered the effects of a pepper spray attack in a Libertadores game at La Bombonera in 2015, Boca were disqualified – while offering wriggle room if Conmebol had been adamant the game had to be played.
The announcement of the abandonment came around half an hour after the gates had been opened to admit fans to the stadium. The mood had been much more subdued on the approaches to the stadium than the previous day, with very little chanting and far less sense of excitement or expectation. There was still evidence of the violence that had broken out after the (first) scheduled kick-off, when fans had clashed with police who fired teargas and rubber bullets.
Police had cordoned off the area where the worst of the trouble occurred and the security had been notably beefed up. When the announcement came, there were only a couple of thousand fans in the ground. They reacted with jeers and whistles and there was some obvious anger, but there was not the weight of numbers to make the protest in any sense effective.
The strong possibility remains that the game will not be played at all, or that if it is, it will not be played in Buenos Aires. For Conbemol and Argentinian football, meanwhile, the inquest begins. How could what is, in terms of global exposure, probably the biggest club game in South American history, end like this? – Guardian service