Libertadores fan violence has damaged Argentina, says Boca coach
Fan violence surrounding the Copa Libertadores final has damaged Argentina and South America and overshadowed the achievements of Argentine football, Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said yesterday.
Boca and fierce Argentine rivals River Plate will play each other in Madrid tomorrow in the second leg of the final of the Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League. River drew 2-2 with arch-rivals Boca in the first leg on Nov 11 but the return has been moved from Buenos Aires 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.
With Madrid police mounting the biggest ever security operation for a football game in the city, attention has turned to the risk of violence between the two bitter Argentine rivals, with the match itself taking a back seat. “Today we should be talking about how River and Boca are putting Argentina on the highest pedestal possible and instead we are talking about violence instead of what the teams have achieved this season,” Schelotto said yesterday. “Unfortunately, we haven’t learned from the same errors we have made before and we have ended up damaging Argentina and South America.”
The attack on Boca’s bus last month was far from an isolated incident in Argentine football, and recalled events from a 2015 Libertadores game between the two sides when River players were attacked with pepper spray. Argentine campaign group ‘Salvamos Al Futbol’ (Save Football) says that a total of 328 people have died at football matches and 92 of those deaths have occurred in the last decade.
Schelotto said the fact that the game had to be moved to Europe should serve as a turning point in the fight to halt football violence. “What happened two weeks ago happens a lot in Argentina and South America but I think it will have to change because if you cannot play Boca versus River in Argentina it’s very worrying,” said Schelotto, who won four Libertadores titles with Boca as a player.
“It’s the right time to take measures and start to show an example. We need time, we need games of this quality to be played in Argentina or South America and to show that we have matured. It’s the time to take measures and start to show an example.”
Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 police and private security guards will be deployed in Madrid for the “high-risk” Copa Libertadores final, the government said Friday. More than 2,000 national police will deploy around the Santiago-Bernabeu stadium . That is more than for the last Champions League final in the 81,000-seat stadium in 2010 when national police deployed a 1,400-strong force.
It is also more than the 1,500 police officers deployed for the “clasico” game between rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona that took place under high security five days after the 2015 Paris attacks. Apart from national police officers, 1,700 private security guards will be used by Real Madrid, which owns the stadium.
Rodriguez said some 200 to 300 “particularly violent” supporters from each team had been identified by Spanish and Argentinian authorities, but if was unclear whether they were in Madrid or not. He added that supporters found to have a “serious” criminal record could be sent straight back to Argentina if they came to Madrid. Between 5,500 and 6,000 out of 10,000 tickets for supporters living in Argentina have been sold, Rodriguez said.
Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto speaks at a press conference.