Remember when the Boca-River final was going to be something so epic the future of South American football and the nation of Argentina as a whole would be changed forever? Remember when we were promised two breathtaking matches that would be viewed by football fans all around the world? Remember when Argentina’s President petitioned to allow visiting fans into the stadiums to prove Argentine football fans can be mature and civilized? Remember the small club in Bell Ville, Córdoba named River Plate who plays in a Boca colored kit that proved to us that peace in a Superclásico could be possible? Remember those days when we knew a date, time, and location for the Libertadores final?
With all that has happened over the past four days, it’s hard to remember that at one point, there was actually supposed to be a football match – and not just any match, one that could change to course of football history. But all that has been forgotten.
Call it chaos, bedlam, pandemonium, insanity – whatever word you would like to use to describe it – the 2018 Copa Libertadores final has been unforgettable, and not for any of the reasons we had hoped for.
If you too have found this entire mess to be more annoying than educational, don’t worry, those of us who have less of a life than you do can bring you up to speed on the latest Copa Libertadores news. Everything is still up in the air, but as of today, here is what we know, or better said, what we think we know based on what has been reported. Buckle up, it’s about to get real boring.
Why was the match not played? What happened?
The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final was scheduled to take place at El Monumental, River Plate’s stadium, on Saturday November 24th. A few hours before kickoff, a bus carrying Boca’s team was in route to the stadium. As it approached, a group of River fans began throwing rocks, glass bottles, and some sort of gas substance at the bus. A handful of windows were smashed and two Boca players, most significantly, their captain Pablo Pérez, were injured. Several other players were effected by the gas and were in visible discomfort. Boca claimed they were in no position to play.
The match was originally delayed one hour, and then two, and finally suspended until Sunday. As Sunday rolled around Boca stood their ground that they were still in no condition to play and the match was again suspended.
Representatives from both teams met at CONMEBOL headquarters in Paraguay to determine if and when a match would be played.
Will there be a second leg?
Yes. After meeting Tuesday morning, CONMEBOL released a statement that the second leg will be played either December 8th or 9th. Boca however, will appeal this decision. President Daniel Angelici has requested that River be disqualified, and the title be handed to his club. Boca has stated that their players do not feel safe and there is also precedent for a walkover win to be awarded.
In 2015 Boca and River played in the Copa Libertadores round of 16, yes this was not the first time the two have met in the tournament, just the first time they have met in the final. River won the first leg in El Monumental 1-0. The second match was played at La Bombonera and as the River squad emerged from the locker room for the second half, Boca fans spayed some sort of gas or other irritant substance on the River players making it impossible for them to continue with the match. Boca were disqualified, River awarded victory and would subsequently go on to win the Copa Libertadores. Boca was fined, and fans were banned from attending the next several matches.
So, if River was awarded the victory in 2015, shouldn’t Boca be crowned champions?
This is exactly what Boca is arguing. Even though both cases have their similarities, there are some significant differences. First, this is the final, like it or not, CONMEBOL does not want to award their trophy to one team without even playing the match.
Second, the incident in 2015 occurred inside of Boca’s stadium. Once it moves inside the team’s grounds, the security of the fans and players falls upon the club. The incident last Saturday took place in route to, but outside of River’s stadium – the city of Buenos Aires is at fault for the poor execution of security, not River.
Third, only one of Boca’s starters was injured. Pablo Pérez sustained injuries to his eye, one report stating that he currently has lost 60% of his vision, but it is expected that the injury will be healed and should not keep him out the final if played in two weeks. When River was hit with gas, the majority of the starting 11 would not have been able to continue.
And fourth, River were leading on aggregate with 45 minutes remaining in 2015; on this occasion the second leg hasn’t kicked off and the score is still level.
What an almighty clusterfuck this has been.
I was genuinely thrilled when the final was made. It felt like a truly historic moment.
Needless to say, the reality has been something else entirely.
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