The 2018 Copa Libertadores final will go down in history for the wrong reasons


It was announced as final to finish all finals. Boca Juniors against River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final was, according to many, bigger than Barcelona against Real Madrid in a Champions League match. Now, it looks like it's going to go down in history for all the wrong reasons.

The first hand brought drama as torrential rain saw the game in La Bombonera put back for a day. But if this seemed like a dose of drama at the time, it was nothing compared to what would follow.

This accessory is called "Superclassic"; this meeting in the final of the Copa Libertadores, dubbed "Superfinal." It was to show the best of Argentine and South American football. Instead, he got exactly the opposite.

After the first game ended in a 2-2 draw with La Bombonera, the second match was scheduled to take place on Saturday at River's Monumental. But the violence intervened and on Sunday, the game was canceled for the second time.

Despite the significant police presence, Boca's bus was stoned on its route to the stadium on Saturday. On board, the players' songs were interrupted by a glass shatter that left two players in need of hospital treatment. Others were dizzy and vomiting with pepper spray.

Image disclosed by Telam showing fans greeting Boca Juniors players as the bus leaves the hotel Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

The bus should not be there in the first place. Its route, along Monroe Avenue, saw the vehicle drive straight through the heart of the enemy, where thousands of river fans had gathered before departure. That's where they always meet, but the police escort can not even protect a vehicle containing about 50 people.

Still, CONMEBOL pressed for the game to go forward. But eventually it was postponed until Sunday night to allow Boca players to recover. The two club presidents agreed that the game should be played in "equal conditions" and on Sunday, Boca said it was impossible. So now it's off again and what happens next is absurd.

Social media served to highlight some of the horrible scenes. The stoning of the Boca bus was the tip of the iceberg. Other images showed flames being attached to small children in order to get objects banned inside the stadium while there were reports that about 5,000 fans had forced entry into the venue and others that the offenders were waiting outside to steal tickets two fans.

In the end, a piece that would be celebrated for its intense color, passion, noise and spectacular atmosphere will be remembered for a series of unpleasant incidents involving violence, revenge and hatred. Instead of showing its beauty and its unique vibe, Argentine football was ashamed of the world view.

Not that these incidents are isolated by any means. Only a few days ago, the All Boys club stadium in Buenos Aires was closed due to violent clashes that left 16 policemen injured and led to three prisons. Such episodes are common.

Today's football would be inconceivable without Argentina. The South American nation lives and breathes its favorite sport in a unique way; is a country that gave us Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and many more. But it has a big problem.

A River Plate fan shows injuries after the game has been postponed (REUTERS / Alberto Raggio)

This weekend's events highlighted this problem and are not restricted to football. It is a sick society and violence is only part of it. Corruption, institutional chaos, and organizational incompetence all contributed to the most unwanted stories over the weekend.

These issues start at the top of Argentina. Messi, among others, complained of logistical and organizational problems within the AFA. Meanwhile, the country continues to indulge in angry bars, ultras groups or hooligans who sing during games, but they are also at the root of the violence witnessed on Saturday.

Five years since 2013, the most violent year recorded in Argentine football, has seen the death of 14 fans. This led to the banning of fans in the big games, but did not help to eradicate the problem.

Instead, clubs continue to distribute tickets to bars, usually gangs of drug gangs and keep protective rackets outside the stadiums on game days.

These people ended up ruining what should have been a party for everyone else. And although they represent a minority, they still operate in large numbers and until they are controlled, those problems will persist.

Meanwhile, there is a meeting in Asuncion on Tuesday to discuss a possible date and venue for the final. Time is running out and one option is to play the second game in Abu Dhabi, with the winner remaining to compete in next month's World Cup.

Surely, however, it should not happen. In 2015, when the two teams met in the last 16 of the Libertadores and Boca fans attacked the river's players with pepper spray, the Xeneizes were expelled from the competition.

Something similar should happen this time, although financial interests and television deals mean that it is unlikely. Whatever happens, this weekend will be one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Argentine football.

Riot police stay on guard outside River Plate's Monumental Stadium before the second leg of the final Photograph: Marcelo Hernandez / Getty Images

The dream of hosting the 2030 World Cup (along with Uruguay and Paraguay) now looks small for Argentina, while winning also seems impossible with AFA problems and chaos in the stands.

Despite all the problems, this must have been an opportunity to highlight everything people love about the game in Argentina and South America. Unfortunately, the opposite happened.

River Plate fans leave Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires Photo: EPA

Maybe this was inevitable. The supporters of both clubs, more than winners of this final, seemed desperate to avoid losing it. And whoever goes to raise the famous trophy, Argentine football is definitely the loser in all this.

Boca fans say the relegation of the River to the second division of Argentina in 2011 is "a stain that will never be erased." The events of this weekend, however, will take more time to be forgotten.


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