Four River Plate players hospitalised after Boca tear gas attack
Superclasico abandoned at half time following tunnel attack at the Bombonera
The Superclasico between Boca Juniors and and River Plate was abandoned at half time after Boca fans teargassed River Plate players last night. Photograph: AFP
Four River Plate players were taken to hospital after they were sprayed with an irritant by fans of bitter rivals Boca Juniors on Thursday, causing their Copa Libertadores derby to be abandoned at halftime.
The last 16 second leg tie between the Buenos Aires clubs at Boca’s Bombonera stadium was deadlocked at 0-0 when the incident occurred in the tunnel as the players came out for the second half.
TV pictures showed Leonardo Ponzio and Leonel Vangioni rubbing their eyes and other players pouring water over their faces to wash away the substance, which had an effect consistent with a lachrymatory agent such as pepper spray.
They, along with team mates Matias Kranevitter and Ramires Funes Mori, were later taken to hospital for treatment for what Argentine radio described as “burns”.
Officials from Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, called the match off about an hour after the incident and the River players were escorted from the pitch under an umbrella of riot shields.
River manager Marcelo Gallardo, whose side were 1-0 up after the first leg, called the incident “deplorable” and “shameful”.
Boca president Daniel Angelici said he had spoken to his opposite number and apologised for the incident but maintained the team should not be punished for the actions of fans.
“We will accept the responsibility that we have but I don’t think the players are responsible,” he told reporters.
“We will do all we can to help the police and we hope to find those responsible as soon as possible.”
Angelici denied the notorious barras bravas, or hooligan firms, were responsible and said it was not possible to stop fans bringing weapons such as pepper sprays into the ground.
“An aerosol is small, I don’t know how it works, but it is very powerful, it can fit in your pocket and when there are almost 50,000 people it can get by security,” he said.
“This is society’s problem, not football’s problem. These people are sick.”
Conmebol officials at the game said a disciplinary committee would meet on Friday and decide whether to replay the match, complete it at a neutral venue or award the tie to River Plate.
Boca were among the favourites to take the title for the seventh time after winning all six of their group games.