Postponed Libertadores final to be played in Madrid
The postponed Copa Libertadores final second leg between Argentine clubs River Plate and Boca Juniors will be played at Real Madrid’s stadium on Dec. 9, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Thursday.
The match, originally scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires last Saturday but postponed after Boca players were hurt when River supporters attacked their coach, will take place in the Spanish capital on December 9 at 10:30pm EAT.
“The decision is that this game is going to be played in front of fans from both clubs in Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium,” CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said.
“(Madrid) is not only one of the safest cities in the world, the Santiago Bernabeu is an elite stadium that offers the highest standards of security and comfort for an encounter of this magnitude.”
This year was the first time that Argentina’s two biggest teams had met in the final of South America’s equivalent of the Champions League and as usual away supporters were banned from both legs because of recurring fan violence.
The clubs drew the first leg 2-2 at Boca’s ground in Buenos Aires and were due to play the second match across town at River’s Monumental stadium last Saturday.
Boca players sustained injuries, however, when River fans attacked their coach as it approached the stadium and the game was first delayed until Sunday before being postponed indefinitely.
A CONMEBOL tribunal on Thursday also ruled against Boca’s appeal to be awarded the match because of the violence but River were fined $400,000 and ordered to play their next two matches in continental competition behind closed doors.
Boca Juniors said it rejected the tribunal’s decision and would appeal.
The violent incidents outside the Monumental were beamed around the world, embarrassing Argentina days before this weekend’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
The task will now fall on Spanish authorities to ensure the game between two of the bitterest rivals in sport goes ahead peacefully at the 81,044-capacity Bernabeu.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter that his government were ready to host the match and were already working with law enforcement authorities to ensure security for the event.
Qatar, Miami, and stadiums in Brazil and Colombia were among the other possible venues discussed for the biggest game in the 58-year history of the Libertadores Cup.
Spain’s position as a footballing hotbed with excellent flight connections to Latin America swung the decision in Madrid’s favour, however.
“The world is asking for an example of chivalry, sportsmanship and sporting values,” Dominguez said.
“Football is not about violence.”
The winners of the final will have little time to celebrate before representing CONMEBOL in the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The tournament kicks off three days after the rescheduled second leg on Dec. 12 with the South American champions due to play their first match on Dec. 18.
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