International soccer officials have moved the second leg of South America’s premier league championship, Copa Libertadores, from Buenos Aires to Madrid after fans attacked one of the team’s buses on Saturday, according to multiple reports
Buenos Aires rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors will reportedly play at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Dec. 9. The first leg of the championship ended in a 2-2 draw.
The two sides were set to play at River Plate’s home field, Estadio Monumental, on Saturday, when Boca’s bus was attacked with wooden sticks and stones that broke the vehicle’s windows and sent players to the emergency room. Players suffered the effects of tear gas used by police to disperse the crowds. Boca players also sustained cuts and bruises to their legs and “corneal abrasions” during the attack Saturday, according to medical reports obtained by the international press. The bus driver told the Guardian he fainted during the attack, and that Boca vice president Dario Richarte took the wheel and steered the bus to safety.
“We are not ready to play this match as we were,” Richarte said to the Associated Press while calling for a delay.
CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American soccer, originally only postponed the match by two hours, then scheduled it for the next day in Buenos Aires. But riots in the city forced the Argentine government to close the stadium, and FIFA officials declared the match would be played at a later date outside the country.
“We have to analyze a sports inequality. The conditions cannot be met — a team has been attacked,” CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said, per the AP. “The image shown to the world because of the actions of a few misfits is embarrassing. This is not what soccer is about.”
The rivalry remained heated off the pitch while officials tried to sort out the next steps to reschedule the match. Boca higher-ups called for CONMEBOL to declare a forfeit and award their club the title. The team’s players and coaches earlier in the week said they would strike unless they were declared champions.
River filed a countercomplaint with CONMEBOL alleging Boca President Daniel Angelici reneged on an agreement about the game’s staging, and insisting the game take place at Estadio Monumental.
“It’s clear they [Boca] don’t want to play it,” River Plate President Rodolfo D’Onofrio said, via ESPN. “They can win it, but they don’t want to play.”
River continued its normal schedule in the meantime, losing in penalty kicks to Gimnasia on Wednesday. Fans at the match held signs that read, “Thank you, Gimnasia, for playing. Boca deserted part 2.”
Doha, the Qatari capital, emerged as a leading candidate for the relocated fixture. The winner of the match will play in the Club World Cup, which is in the nearby United Arab Emirates.
Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, and other sites in South America were considered as hosts, prompting concerns fans would travel to those cities and incite more chaos. Miami and New Orleans also bid for the event.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu entered the conversation late, according to Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS. The historic venue is a convenient location for the many Argentine expats in Spain, more than 60,000 of whom live in Madrid.
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