We are just one day away from the Copa Libertadores taking place in Madrid. That’s right, Boca Juniors and River Plate, two Argentine football clubs, are travelling over 10,000 km to another continent to play the South American cup final in Spain.
The Copa Libertadores is named in honour of the Libertadores (liberators) who were the main leaders of the South American wars of independence, such as General José de San Martín or Simón Bolivar.
The two teams played the first game on November 11 at La Bombonera, Boca’s stadium, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. The second leg was to take place at River’s stadium but violence ensued before the game even started.
As Boca’s bus was trying to get into the grounds, River fans decided to throw rocks at the vehicle, smashing some of its windows and injure a number of players inside, including the captain Pablo Pérez who had to go to hospital to seek treatment for his eye. Police used tear gas to dispel the crowds and it turns out Boca’s players were contaminated by this too.
In pure CONMEBOL style, the organisation decided to continuously delay the kick off of the match in the hopes that it could be salvaged and the two teams would agree to play. In the end, the game didn’t go ahead and it had to be postponed.
Now, after much deliberation, the organisation has decided to play the final in Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday.
What should have been a legendary match hosted by Argentina has now tragically turned into bitter disappointment. Now fans will have to shell out a sizeable amount money, with only two weeks notice, to travel to Spain if they want to see their favourite team play.
Spanish police are expecting around 500 “particularly violent” football fans and one of Boca’s hooligan group leaders, Maximiliano Mazzaro, was put on a flight straight back to Argentina when he landed in Madrid, according to El Pais.
There will be around 4000 officers stationed around the stadium as Spain gets ready to deal with the cursed final. On the other hand, Rodríguez Uribes, a Spanish government delegate, said the match would bring the city around €42 million in revenue.
The real question is whether this is a new pattern we will see in football; move games to other countries in order to maximize profit.
It’s a strange coincidence that La Liga are hoping to play one of their games in the US this season as part of a new deal with media company Relevent. The president of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez, was vehemently against this idea.
“We are not going to the United States. We do not know who this interests, surely not the clubs or the fans,” he said.
The fact that Argentina has lost one of the most legendary Libertadores finals in history must show that AFA needs to deal with hooliganism at home. This is another South American treasure taken to the Iberian Peninsula, the first time the final has been played outside the continent in history.
For now, hopefully the match will be played out peacefully in Madrid. One of the positive things to take away from it is that both Boca and River fans will be in the same stadium together supporting their teams, something unheard of in Argentina.
Maybe this international embarrassment will help push Argentine clubs to drive out hooliganism in their stadiums. Or maybe hooliganism will continue and end in a more violent catastrophe in the future.