It is being billed as the biggest match in football history and hyperbole aside it is almost unfathomably huge. Two of the fiercest rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate meet for the first time ever in the Copa Libertadores final vying for continental supremacy and they do so in Buenos Aires, the last chance to do so before the tournament moves to a one-off final hosted elsewhere.
Since the semi finals or even earlier when both clubs were in opposite sides of the draw, the prospect of a potential Superclásico in the final has been a tantalising one. A game that brings excitement and fear in equal measure and as a result makes for compulsive viewing.
River Plate overcoming Grêmio and Boca Juniors defeating Palmeiras set the final and immediately the drama began.
Grêmio, upset that River manager Marcelo Gallardo had flagrantly ignored his coaching ban by visiting the changing room at half time, appealed to CONMEBOL to have the second leg result overturned.
Gallardo was guilty, CONMEBOL had punished ineligible players with walkover 3-0 wins and the Brazilians pleaded that an ineligible coach be dealt with the same way.
CONMEBOL’s advertising for the biggest game on earth came with the caveat, ‘pending Grêmio’s appeal’ and while South American football’s governing body took their time, eventually the verdict came back and to absolutely no surprise the Superclásico was on.
Gallardo will be banned from attending the first leg at La Bombonera and will face another touchline ban for the second leg in addition to two further games plus a fine of $50,000 but it felt like it was the minimum that CONMEBOL could do.
Will that affect River? Absolutely. Could it have been worse? Undoutedly and for that River should be quietly grateful.
So, with the final set, now came the task of organising the event, given the first leg was scheduled to take place only a week later.
Buenos Aires uneasily began preparations and everyone from CONMEBOL, the clubs, the AFA, to the President of Argentina had an opinion on how the Superclásico should be staged.
The G20 summit immediately made the original November 28th date for the second leg impossible and so it was going to moved a week earlier before the idea to shift the games to the weekends.
CONMEBOL weren’t keen, the Superliga protested over having to reschudule their fixtures and Boca president Daniel Angelici appealed on the grounds that the club’s Jewish supporting community would be observing shabbat but eventually with a mind on security it was decided that Saturday November 10th and two weeks later, Saturday November 24th would be best suited.
An early kick-off time of 3pm was suggested before being shifted an hour later and with the clubs reportedly pushing to actually play on Sunday, an agreement was reached to play at 5pm. Given the impending Buenos Aires summer is already seeing the celsius rise, playing outside the mid-afternoon sun seems prudent.
So all that was left was what to do with the visiting supporters. Argentine football has been without away fans since the death of a Lanús supporter in La Plata back in 2013 and despite the odd exception that has been the case for all domestic football.
Despite this being a continental competition the assumption was that the same would apply here – La Bombonera for the Boca support and El Monumental for River. However, Argentine president (and former Boca club president) Mauricio Macri declared it was the time to show that things had moved on and the Superclásico Libertadores final was too historic a moment to pass without away supporters.
Security forces initially voiced concern then backed Macri before the clubs interjected to say, they could do without. Macri backtracked and said the decision was with the clubs and so finally, AFA president Claudio Tapia along with presidents Daniel Angelici and Rodolfo D’onofrio announced an agreement.
There will be no away supporters but put the dates in your calendar. Boca Juniors against River Plate for the Copa Libertadores is here…
Saturday November 10th – 5pm local time – La Bombonera Saturday November 24th – 5pm local time – El Monumental