Copa Lib­er­ta­dores fi­nally set for fi­nale in Madrid

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS -

MADRID — Two weeks ago, River Plate fan Gigi Gibson trav­elled more than 10,000 kilo­me­tres to watch the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores fi­nal in Ar­gentina.

On Sun­day, she will travel less than 10 kilo­me­tres from her home to at­tend the fi­nal in Madrid.

Gibson was among 70,000 spec­ta­tors who waited in vain for hours at River’s Mon­u­men­tal Sta­dium in Buenos Aires for the sec­ond leg of the much-hyped “fi­nal of all fi­nals” that didn’t hap­pen. Out­side the sta­dium, River fans at­tacked the Boca team bus with rocks, wood and bot­tles and in­jured play­ers.

The match was post­poned twice then con­tro­ver­sially trans­ferred for se­cu­rity rea­sons to Spain, where Gibson sud­denly found her­self get­ting ready to watch it in her “back­yard.”

“I live two train sta­tions from the Bern­abeu,” Gibson told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I can’t be­lieve they de­cided to play this match here.” Nei­ther can many oth­ers.

Yet, the 80,000-seat San­ti­ago Bern­abeu Sta­dium is ex­pected to be packed on Sun­day to com­plete a fi­nal four weeks af­ter the thrilling first leg at Boca’s La Bom­bon­era Sta­dium fin­ished 2-2.

Lionel Messi is ex­pected to be there, and there was a chance Cris­tiano Ron­aldo would be, too, along with a mul­ti­tude of soc­cer dig­ni­taries from across the globe.

River fan Gus­tavo Gar­cia-man­silla, who has lived in Spain for nearly two decades, wouldn’t be able to watch the fi­nal if it was played in Buenos Aires as orig­i­nally planned. He called it a “mir­a­cle” it was moved to Madrid.

“Watch­ing a River vs. Boca is some­thing ev­ery­one needs to do at least once in life,” he said. “It’s like vis­it­ing the Eif­fel Tower or the Sis­tine Chapel. And to watch a match of this im­por­tance in a venue like the Bern­abeu, noth­ing can be com­pared to that.”

But the back­lash for tak­ing the game away from South Amer­ica still re­ver­ber­ates in Spain.

“It’s a weird feel­ing to play the fi­nal of the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores in the Bern­abeu,” Boca Ju­niors for­ward Car­los Tevez said. “It’s sad we can’t play this match in our own coun­try. I don’t think it should have been played here.”

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