River coach says fans ‘robbed’ by Lib­er­ta­dores switch

Tehran Times - - WORLD SPORTS -

River Plate coach Marcelo Gal­lardo has ac­cused the South Amer­i­can Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (CON­MEBOL) of “rob­bing the fans” with its de­ci­sion to move the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores fi­nal to Madrid.

River drew 2-2 with arch-ri­vals Boca Ju­niors in the first leg on Nov. 11 but the re­turn has been moved to Spain af­ter Boca play­ers were in­jured when fans at­tacked their team coach shortly be­fore the match at River’s Mon­u­men­tal sta­dium on Nov. 24.

“We have lost home ad­van­tage,” Gal­lardo told re­porters on Sun­day af­ter his team beat Gim­na­sia La Plata 3-1 in the Ar­gen­tine league.

“As ab­surd as it may be, they made a de­ci­sion. Some day we are go­ing to re­think what hap­pened and we will re­mem­ber it as a to­tal dis­grace.

“Our prepa­ra­tions have changed. We are go­ing to play 10,000 kilo­me­tres away. The Copa Lib­er­ta­dores of Amer­ica. They’ve robbed the fans.”

Each team will get 25,000 tick­ets for the game at the Real madrid’s San­ti­ago Bern­abeu sta­dium on Sun­day but only 5,000 of them can be sold to fans in­side Ar­gentina, CON­MEBOL said.

The de­ci­sion is de­signed to pre­vent the in­fa­mous barra bravas, the of­ten vi­o­lent or­gan­ised fan groups, from trav­el­ling to watch the game in Spain.

The Ar­gen­tine gov­ern­ment said on Mon­day it was work­ing closely with its Span­ish coun­ter­parts to neuter the barra bravas and en­sure that trav­el­ling fans would be kept apart in Madrid.

“We can’t stop the barra bravas from leav­ing the coun­try but we can stop them from get­ting into the Bern­abeu,” a se­cu­rity of­fi­cial told Reuters on con­di­tion of anonymity.

GAL­LARDO IN­DIG­NANT

Gal­lardo was in­dig­nant at the sit­u­a­tion and said the last 10 days was one of the most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods of his long ca­reer.

“Af­ter all that’s hap­pened, what we’ve gone through and had to chew over, it’s not easy,” he said. “They have dam­aged our spirit but that makes us stronger. This may be one of the hard­est mo­ments.”

Gal­lardo, who ig­nored a dress­ing room ban in the semi-fi­nal against Gremio and was given an­other sus­pen­sion for do­ing so, ac­cused Boca of “tak­ing ad­van­tage” of the sit­u­a­tion to try and se­cure their sev­enth Lib­er­ta­dores ti­tle.

Boca have ap­pealed against the de­ci­sion to move the game and be­lieve they should be awarded the match.

Their ar­gu­ment is based on a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion three years ago when Boca them­selves were kicked out the Lib­er­ta­dores af­ter their fans at­tacked River play­ers with pep­per spray at half­time dur­ing the first leg of their last 16 show­down.

Ar­gentina pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri, a for­mer pres­i­dent of Boca Ju­niors, said he hoped the mas­sive in­ter­na­tional fo­cus on the scan­dal would force his com­pa­tri­ots to change.

“This should cause us all to re­flect deeply on what hap­pened,” he said. “In­ter­na­tional foot­ball au­thor­i­ties can’t tell us that we can’t fin­ish a foot­ball match in our coun­try again.”

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