Great Argentina rivalry resumes in Madrid
LIBERTADORES FINAL SET TO CONCLUDE AFTER COMPLAINTS & THREATS
Madrid: Six thousand miles away and 15 days later than planned, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate will be concluded on Sunday.
There have been refusals, complaints and threats to go to court but the players of Boca and River — Argentina’s two greatest football rivals — landed in Madrid and all indications are the second leg will be played.
Both teams — who played out a 2-2 draw in the first leg — trained leading up to the game, Boca at the Spanish national team’s base at Las Rozas and River at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas, with the players appearing in good spirits, laughing and joking, jumping on each other’s backs.
There was even a smattering of fans waiting outside, some holding flags or notebooks open for autographs, even if it was a world away from the rocking Bombonera, packed out for an open training session before the original fixture was due last month.
That game had to be postponed, three times, after River fans injured Boca players during an attack on their team’s bus. It could have been cancelled, or awarded to Boca, but CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, chose to relocate to Spain.
“It is a weird final,” said Carlos Tevez, once of Manchester United and Manchester City, and now a striker for Boca.
“To play a match between Boca and River in Madrid, it’s weird,” he added.
For many, this was the most important match in Argentina’s history and its removal a national embarrassment. “Unfortunately for me, this match has lost importance in my heart,” said Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari on Wednesday.
Boca Juniors fans throng outside the team hotel ahead of the second leg final against River Plate in Madrid on Saturday