November 27, 2018 / 4:07 PM / 17 days ago

Postponed Libertadores final moved outside Argentina in December

ASUNCION (Reuters) - The Copa Libertadores soccer final between Argentine rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors will take place in early December outside of Argentina after fan violence forced the match to be postponed last week, organizers said on Tuesday.

President of the CONMENBOL Alejandro Dominguez speaks to the media after having a meeting with Daniel Angelici and Rodolfo D'Onofrio, presidents of soccer clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate respectively at the CONMEBOL headquarters to discuss the rescheduling of Copa Libertadores final, which was postponed after a bus with players was attacked, in Luque, Paraguay November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said in a statement that the game - the South American equivalent of the Champions League final in Europe - should be played on Dec. 8 or Dec. 9, but did not specify an alternative location.

After playing to a 2-2 draw in the final’s first leg, Argentina’s two biggest clubs were scheduled meet in the decisive second leg on Saturday at River’s Monumental stadium. The match was called off after several Boca players were hurt when their bus was pelted with rocks by River fans.

“It will be played outside Argentina because the conditions do not exist for the game to be played in Argentina,” CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez told a news conference after meeting with the heads of both clubs at the confederation’s headquarters in Paraguay.

Paraguayan police commander, Walter Vazquez, told a local radio station that Asuncion could be the venue and that the match would be played on Sunday, Dec. 9.

Boca Juniors, meanwhile, have officially requested that CONMEBOL disqualify River and award the championship to them. The organization has opened disciplinary proceedings against River.

Boca president Daniel Angelici said in Paraguay that the club could take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an international body headquartered in Switzerland that settles sporting disputes.

The showdown between the fierce Buenos Aires rivals was billed as the greatest final in the competition’s 58-year history.

Both legs were sold out and fans and media came from around the world to watch what many consider to be one of the most bitter rivalries in world sport.

However, Argentine football was disgraced after River fans threw stones and missiles at the Boca bus as it made its way to the stadium, breaking windows and injuring players.

Tear gas or pepper spray used against the unruly fans got into the vehicle, disorienting players and causing some to vomit. Boca captain Pablo Perez was taken to hospital with cuts to his eye and several other players suffered lacerations caused by shards of glass from broken windows.

Even though the stadium was filled to capacity, Boca said they were in no state to play and CONMEBOL first delayed the match and later postponed it until Sunday.

On Sunday, CONMEBOL called the game off once again after Boca complained that a fair contest could not be guaranteed if the game was played at the River stadium.

The postponements of what was supposed to have been a gala occasion for South American football was a huge embarrassment to CONMEBOL and Argentina, which this week hosts a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations.

Argentina’s president on Monday called for Congress to pass a bill in special session that would more severely punish soccer hooliganism.

In addition to the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, Miami has been suggested as a potential site for the rescheduled match. Cities in Italy, Brazil and Colombia have also reportedly offered to host.

The new date will ensure the Libertadores champions can compete in this year’s Club World Cup, which starts on Dec. 12 in the United Arab Emirates.

The CONMEBOL winners play their first match in the tournament on Dec. 18 and could face UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid in the final.

Additional reporting by Andrew Downie and the Buenos Aires Newsroom; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot

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