The Copa Libertadores final was cancelled on Sunday after Boca Juniors players were injured when their bus was attacked by River Plate fans outside their Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.
The game – the continent’s equivalent of Europe’s Champions League final – between fierce Argentine rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate – had already been put back from Saturday to Sunday.
Several Boca players were injured when rioting River Plate fans smashed their bus on Saturday and some also suffered the consequences when police unleashed tear gas and pepper spray outside the vehicle. Boca team captain and midfielder Pablo Perez had an eye injured by shattered glass.
On Sunday, the game was postponed again just hours before it was due to start after Boca complained the match could not be played under conditions that were fair for both teams.
‘We don’t want there to be any excuses that conditions were not equal for both teams,’ said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of the South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL said on TV. ‘We want both teams to have time to recover.’
Boca asked the soccer body earlier Sunday to suspend the game at the Monumental de Nunez Stadium and sanction River for the behavior of its fans.
The first leg on Novemeber 11 ended 2-2 at Boca’s La Bombonera Stadium. It was originally scheduled to be held November 10 but was delayed 24 hours due to heavy rain.
The Copa Libertadores final was postponed for a second time on Sunday after Boca Juniors players were injured when their bus was attacked by River Plate fans outside their Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. Pictured, Boca captain Pablo Perez, who suffered an eye injury
Boca captain Pablo Perez hinted he would be OK to play after having his eye injury checked a by doctor on Sunday morning
Security forces stand guard as River Plate’s supporters leave the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, after the all-Argentine Copa Libertadores second leg final match against Boca Juniors was postponed on Sunday
Chaotic scenes soon ensued as riot police were met by supporters outside the stadium following Saturday’s postponement
The River Plate fans involved in the trouble both inside and outside the stadium were detained by the local authorities
CONMEBOL said on Sunday that the second leg of the final will be rescheduled, but did not give a date or say whether the venue would be changed. It will meet to discuss the details in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Tuesday.
Boca had submitted a request to CONMEBOL on Sunday for the final to be pushed back to a further date and for the second leg to be held at a neutral venue in light of the attacks which left several of their players with injuries.
It is not yet clear if Boca’s demands will be granted but Dominguez assured that the final will be rescheduled with December 8 being touted as a possible date for the match – 10 days before the Club World Cup semi final the winner will play in.
In a statement, Boca said it told CONMEBOL the two Buenos Aires teams would not be playing under equal conditions after the attack on Saturday.
Boca also said it wants River to be punished after the attack near the Monumental de Nunez stadium, including possible disqualification and the title being awarded to Boca.
River had already opened the stadium’s gates when the match was suspended. FIFA President Gianni Infantino is in Buenos Aires for the final.
After the match was postponed on Saturday, some of the more than 66,000 River fans also tried to storm the teams’ locker rooms. Others clashed with police outside.
Riot police stand guard outside of the stadium as news of the final’s postponement filtered through on Sunday
Boca Juniors released an image on social media of midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, showing the extent of his injuries
Boca Juniors’ coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, center, and Boca Juniors’ President Daniel Angelici give a press conference in Buenos Aires on Sunday
Boca boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto admitted his players were not in the right frame of mind to play and was glad the decision was made to postpone the match.
He said: ‘I have to say that what we had to live through is not what we should before a final, we were at a competitive disadvantage yesterday and today, we are not in the same conditions as River.
‘We were at a disadvantage, we were not prepared, it was what I said to the president. We were out of focus.’
Perez also had injuries to his arms and eye, according to images of Boca’s locker room shared on social media.
Teenager Gonzalo Lamardo had trouble breathing because of the gas. Both Perez and Lamardo were taken to nearby hospitals, where fans gathered in support.
One medical doctor, Alejandro Weremczuk, examined Perez and Lamardo and said they should not play.
‘The recommendation for any person with an eye injury is not to play, to rest at a place that is proper for the healing,’ Weremczuk, a River fan, told TV channel Todo Noticias.
Police officers hold back River fans on their way to the stadium prior the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final
River Plate fans walk past police officers in riot gear after the game was postponed for the second time on Sunday
Thousands of River Plate supporters were left furious after they were allowed to enter the stadium on Sunday
The club reassured fans the Copa Libertadores final will go ahead and allowed them to enter despite the uncertainty
River’s fans pictured leaving the stadium after CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez announced it was postponed
The closure of River Plate’s Stadium has been lifted in order to allow the Copa Libertadores final second leg to go ahead
Boca Juniors fans display banners outside the team’s hotel to show their support for the players after Saturday’s events
BOCA JUNIORS’ FULL STATEMENT
Club Atletico Boca Juniors made a formal presentation to Conmebol on Sunday to request that the final of the Copa Libertadores be played in conditions of equality, as agreed by the presidents of the South American entity, Boca and River, in the minutes who signed on Saturday at the Monumental.
In the afternoon of yesterday, Boca Juniors requested to postpone the match due to the incidents and it was established as a priority that it could be played under equal conditions. After the acts of violence suffered in the vicinity of the stadium, having noted the magnitude and seriousness of them and the consequences they have generated in the establishment, Boca considers that these conditions are not met and requests the suspension of the match, as well as the application of the corresponding sanctions provided for in Article 18, so that Conmebol acts accordingly.
Meanwhile, thousands of River Plate supporters were left furious after the club reassured them the fixture would go ahead as planned and allowed them to enter the stadium despite the uncertainty surrounding the event.
The club sent out a tweet on Sunday to remind fans that the doors will open at 1pm (4pm GMT) and that Saturday’s tickets are valid and will be accepted after the local council lifted their stadium ban in order for the final to go ahead.
Boca fans could not attend the final at the Monumental de Nunez Stadium because of a 2013 ban on away fans in Argentina.
Saturday’s incident is being compared to another game involving the two sides in the Round of 16 of the 2015 Copa Libertadores.
In a match at Boca’s La Bombonera Stadium, fans used pepper spray against River players as they entered the pitch.
Several had eye injuries and had trouble breathing. CONMEBOL ruled that River was the winner and advanced to the next phase. Boca had its stadium suspended from international competitions and also was given a financial penalty.
In Sunday’s incident, Boca players were injured by flying shards of glass and affected by tear gas, fired by police to disperse the crowd, resulting in the postponement.
Boca asked for the rescheduled match to be further postponed to allow a longer time to recover with captain Perez requiring further medical checks on Sunday morning after sustaining an eye injury in the attacks.
The showpiece final had appeared set to go ahead after the closure of River Plate’s Monumental Stadium was lifted and with police busy implementing extra security plans to prevent a repeat of Saturday’s ugly scenes.
There were suggestions Boca would point blank refuse to play the final should Perez be declared unfit as a result of the injury he sustained in the attacks before they submitted their request to CONMEBOL.
Boca supporters had also gathered in their numbers outside the team’s hotel in Buenos Aires to show their support after Saturday’s shocking events.
Carlos Tevez (R) and Co were considering refusing to play the final if Perez was ruled out of the tie by the eye doctor
The Boca Juniors coach was guided in by police forces after taking a battering in the streets en-route to the stadium
The coach was ferrying the players to the stadium ahead of the decisive match in the Copa Libertadores final
TV cameras picked up images of the aftermath, with portions of window visibly smashed on the team coach
Fans of both rival teams had gathered in the streets in the build up to what is set to be the biggest game of the season
Boca’s team coach was pelted with missiles as it approached the Estadio Monumental, with hostile River Plate fans looking to get into the heads of the players and launch an attack which culminated in several windows being smashed and the situation drastically getting out of control.
Several emergency meetings of CONMEBOL officials were held – initially delaying the fixture by two hours before postponing the fixture all together – despite over 70,000 fans packing into the ground and waiting for the final to get under way.
Perez was in need of medical attention as a result of the attack and was swiftly taken to hospital once the coach reached the safety of the stadium, returning later to the ground with a heavily bandaged eye.
It was later confirmed that the fixture will take place instead on Sunday, with kick-off scheduled for 5pm local time.
There were angry scenes after the game was postponed as thousands of fans spilled back out onto the streets, Riot police were seen having to shelter from missiles thrown by some supporters.
The authorities closed River Plate’s ground on Saturday and reports emerged that police were refusing to provide protection for the rearranged match and despite plans being put in place for the fixture to go ahead, it now seems as though the match won’t be played this weekend.
Boca’s players took to the pitch at the stadium four hours after the game was due to kick-off, still clearly shaken by the earlier events. Former Manchester United and Manchester City star Carlos Tevez looked in shock after a traumatic day in his home city, while Perez’s eye was covered with a bandage. River and Boca bosses Marcelo Gallardo and Gustavo Barros Schelotto were also deep in conversation.
Outside, numerous fans who had been involved in the trouble on the streets were detained by local police after a day that shamed Argentinian football.
Carlos Tevez was struggling to hold back the tears as he made his way onto the pitch at an empty Estadio Monumental
Players, including Perez who had to go to hospital for treatment, took to the pitch four hours after it was meant to start
River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo and opposite number Gustavo Barros Schelotto were deep in conversation on the pitch
Videos showed at least ten fans thought to be involved in the trouble detained inside a nearby doorway as police look on
Such was the severity of the attack, the driver later spoke to local media and revealed he fainted as a result.
‘At the moment of the attacks I fainted and the vice-president of Boca took the wheel,’ he admitted, after being treated at the stadium.
The fixture was finely poised at 2-2 following the first leg clash between the two teams, in which Ramon Abila and Dario Benedetto struck for Boca, and Lucas Pratto and a Carlos Izquierdoz own goal found the back of the net for River.
The animated swelling of supporters outside the stadium soon became considerably more subdued, as scenes of singing and excitement turned into hushed tones as fans quickly realised the decisive game was in danger of being postponed.
News quickly spread of multiple Boca players suffering severely with the effects of pepper spray and throwing up as a result. Talisman Tevez was among those affected, while Leonardo Jara was cut by glass as a result of being covered in shards after the windows smashing.
The Boca coach was making its way to the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti ahead of the fixture
A heavy police presence was deployed on the streets, ahead of the crunch final between the two bitter rivals
Thousands of supporters still remained in and around the stadium as the decision was made on whether the game would start
Supporters were left sitting inside the stadium, waiting on news regarding whether the match would actually commence
A follow-up CONMEBOL announcement then confirmed that the game would go ahead later, before then being abandoned
The stadium was at maximum capacity when the fixture was finally deemed to be unable to go ahead
The club doctor of Boca Juniors later shared an image taken of duo Pablo Perez and Gonzalo Lamaro, in which both players could be seen with eyes bandaged after coming into contact with glass debris from the windows.
Local news crews were able to gain access to the coach once the players had disembarked, and broadcast images of the wreckage that remained. Several windows could be seen to have been smashed completely open, with glass and debris strewn across the vehicle.
Upon reaching the dressing rooms of the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, some Boca players took to social media to show the aftermath of the disastrous arrival to the ground.
Players wiped their faces in the changing room and dealt with the feelings of dizziness and nausea caused by the pepper spray, while club medical staff attended to others. Others could be seen wiping away traces of blood.
Stewards watched on as thousands of River Plate fans hummed away in the stands, anxious on whether the game would play
Police were quickly called to line the streets of the surrounding area once it was confirmed the match was to be called off
Flares and smoke canisters were thrown as police battled to keep the situation under control as supporters departed
Riot police are likely to be deployed again on Sunday when the Copa Libertadores final is now scheduled to commence
Releasing an official statement via their official social media channels, CONMEBOL announced: ‘Due to the events of the Boca Juniors Club bus, the game has been postponed until at least 18:00 hours’ [local time – 9.00pm UK].
A further CONMEBOL announcement then confirmed the game shall be played at 10.30pm UK time. Pressure was thought to have been ramped up by broadcasters desperate to showcase the headline event, though protestations from Boca quickly saw a U-turn on the decision to play and a notice to abandon the fixture for Saturday.
Club president Daniel Angelici told Fox Sports Argentina: ‘It is a game where emotions play and we understood that the conditions were not given by the injuries. I asked for the rescheduling. We win the games or lose them inside the pitch. But we can’t play like that either.
‘There are players of ours with glass splinters and with respiratory problems by the gas. After the first meeting, it was [scheduled to be] played.
‘When we saw the amount of cuts that some players had and the lack of air, we had to apply injections. There I saw that the conditions were not normal.
‘When I returned to the locker room I saw the players’ status and said it didn’t seem fair. I have to thank CONMEBOL and River for the disposition. It’s not easy to make this kind of decision when there are so many people in the stadium, let’s hope tomorrow is in peace.’
Large sections of supporters were respectful of the situation and made their way past the assembled lines of riot police
The stadium was prepared and ready for the Super Clasico to go ahead, with tifos in River colours adorning the stands
Tevez himself took a moment to speak to Argentina’s media as the teams initially waited for the delayed kick-off, during which he expressed clearly his dissatisfaction with the situation and suggested an unwillingness to play.
‘The players are not in condition to play. They are forcing us to play the game,’ said the striker. He also referred to a 2015 incident between the two clubs, when in reverse circumstances River Plate players were targeted by fans and Boca were thrown out of the competition as a result.
‘When the 2015 [incident] happened, River complained that none of Boca had sympathised. No one came here today,’ Tevez added.