Copa Libertadores final postponed after bus attack

AFP , Sunday 25 Nov 2018

Boca Juniors' supporters wait for their team players outside the hotel where they are staying in Buenos Aires, after the all-Argentine Copa Libertadores second leg final match against River Plate was postponed on November 25, 2018 AFP

The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final has been postponed for the second time in as many days following an attack on the Boca Juniors team bus by River Plate fans, organizers Conmebol said on Sunday.

The match between the Buenos Aires arch-rivals was due to be played at 2000 GMT on Sunday after initially being postponed on Saturday following the attack near River's Monumental stadium, which left Boca players with injuries from shards of broken glass and suffering the effects of smoke inhalation.

"There isn't a level playing field to play the final. That is why Conmebol have taken the decision to postpone the final of the Libertadores and to call a meeting of the presidents of both clubs in Asuncion to find a new date," Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez said.

South American football's governing body took the decision after Boca called earlier on Sunday for a postponement and demanded that River face punishment, suggesting a series of measures including forfeiting the match.

"After the acts of violence suffered in the vicinity of the stadium, Boca... requests the suspension of the game, as well as the application of the corresponding sanctions provided in Article 18," Boca said in a statement on their website.

Among the sanctions available under Conmebol's Article 18 are "disqualification from competitions and exclusion from future competitions".

It includes other options, including a fine, the deduction of points and being forced to play a game behind closed doors.

- 'Shameful image' -

Boca captain Pablo Perez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo required hospital treatment after River fans attacked the bus with pepper spray, sticks and stones.

"We've given a shameful image to the world," lamented Dominguez.

The meeting between Boca president Daniel Angelici and his River counterpart Rodolfo D'Onofrio will take place on Tuesday at Conmebol's headquarters in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion.

Saturday's attack initially moved Conmebol to announce that kick-off had been delayed but Boca players emerged from their dressing room to talk to the press and insisted they were in no condition to play.

Veteran forward Carlos Tevez told Fox television: "They're forcing us to play."

Images had been circulating on Argentine television of players stepping off their team bus rubbing their eyes from the effects of the pepper spray, while others from inside their dressing room showed them being treated for cuts by doctors.

When Perez returned from hospital, he was wearing a large white bandage over his left eye.

"Other team-mates have cuts. We've only just been able to breathe well because we were affected by the gas. We can't play like this," had said Tevez, a Copa Libertadores winner in 2003 during his first of three stints with Boca.

- Endemic violence -

When the scheduled kick-off time approached with still no sign of any players even coming out onto the pitch to warm-up, a feeling of deflation seemed to spread among fans inside the ground.

"It's not easy to take this decision when there are 60,000 people in the stadium and the (television) rights have been sold to a ton of countries," said Angelici after Conmebol announced on Saturday its decision to postpone the game for 24 hours. D'Onofrio insisted, though, that: "It's the right decision."

As fans left the ground Saturday scuffles broke out with police leading to several arrests.

Argentina has a problem with football-related violence and more than 300 people have been killed over the last 50 years because of it, according to one charity.

The endemic violence led Argentine authorities in 2013 to ban away fans from all matches in the country.

The 'superclasico' final between Argentina's two most popular teams, already known worldwide for their fierce rivalry, was dubbed the most important club match in the country's history.

It was finely poised at 2-2 following the first leg two weeks ago at Boca's iconic Bombonera stadium.

That too had to be postponed, although just 24 hours and due to a torrential downpour leaving the pitch waterlogged.

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