The Copa Libertadores final between River and Boca will continue to be disputed at the offices of the Conmebol – the South American Football Confederation – after the successive suspensions of the second leg, which should have taken place at River’s stadium on Saturday and then on Sunday, as a result of the attack from home “fans” to the bus carrying Boca players.
Both teams’ presidents, Rodolfo D’Onofrío and Daniel Angelici, are set to meet with continental authorities on Tuesday morning at Conmebol’s headquarters in Luque, right outside of Asunción.
However, it seems unlikely much progress will be made there, considering that Boca authorities have already turned in a formal request to the Conmebol’s disciplinary tribunal, demanding River be disqualified and Boca be consequently proclaimed champion.
Boca resorted to a recent, infamous precedent which in fact involves both teams: the episode in which another “fan,” in this case of Boca’s, pepper sprayed River players when they were returning to the Bombonera’s pitch to play the second half of the 2015 Copa Libertadores Round of 16’s second leg. In this case, Boca was disqualified and River made it to the next phase of the championship, which it would end up winning.
River is set to rebuke the argument by pointing out there is a key difference between the two events: in this case, the attack took place both outside the stadium and the security perimeter River was in charge of. Therefore, club authorities will say, police is responsible in this case, as officers failed to clear the area for the Boca bus to make it to the stadium unharmed.
However, representatives of the historic rival made focus on Article 8, subsections a and b of the Conmebol’s disciplinary rule-book, which indicates that: “associations and clubs are responsible for the behavior of their players, officials, members, attendants and fans,” as well as the “security and order in both the interior and the vicinity of the stadium before, during and after a game of which they are hosts or organizers.”
Reglamento disciplinario de la @CONMEBOL artículo 8.
"El club local es responsable del orden tanto en el estadio como en las inmediaciones". pic.twitter.com/efQlABwgc7
— Silvio Maverino (@mavegol) November 24, 2018
“This responsibility is extended to all incidents of any nature that could take place, which exposes them to the imposing of disciplinary sanctions,” reads a key passage of subsection b.
The disciplinary tribunal, then, will determine whether River should be disqualified, or if the second leg is to be played. However, Boca authorities expressed their firm intention of being awarded the final and, should the tribunal issue an unfavorable ruling, would appeal to a higher court: the Conmebol’s Court of Appeals, or the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport through arbitration.
The problem is, this body does not issue rulings in less than three months, and time is of the essence: the Club World Cup – the tournament marching the champions of the different continental competitions dependent of FIFA – is set to begin on December 12 in the United Arab Emirates. The eventual champion of the Libertadores would begin its participation in the Cup’s semi-finals, which will take place on December 18 at 1:30 PM Argentina time.
Since Buenos Aires cannot host events of a large magnitude this week due to the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit, the only available weekend before the global competition is that of December 8 and 9. In fact, there has been speculation about the possibility that the second leg is played in the EAU, and the winner stay for the tournament.
The presidents of both clubs have already taken a stance and seem to be fixated on it, to such an extent that they have began crossing accusations despite having maintained a cordial tone before.
“I understood Boca members expected their president to do what was necessary for the rules to be applied,” said Angelici. On his end, D’Onofrio argued that, if River ends up being disqualified, his counterpart will have perpetrated one of “the most important acts of treason in history.” He was making reference to the fact that, on Saturday, both signed a “gentlemen’s’ pact” to suspend the game that day, but expressed their intention of having it take place on Sunday. In other words, that Angelici intended for Boca to play the final, rather than resort to a tribunal.
D’Onofrio focused his criticism on the security operation, which he labeled as “weird,” mainly due to the fact that police did not clear the area through which Boca’s bus was set to pass, nor set up the usual wooden fences that keeps fans away from the road. “Many things were done poorly, and that was conceded by the City Government,” he said, making reference to the press conference held by City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta on Sunday.
River’s President went on to address the theory positing that the events were caused by the club’s barras bravas as a revenge for a police raid to the house of one of its leaders, Héctor “Caverna” Godoy, which took place last week. Back then, police seized AR $7 million from his house – which allegedly came from scalped tickets – and roughly 300 tickets believed to be for barras bravas.
“River can’t prevent members from buying tickets. Why he had so many and how he got them? The Judiciary has to investigate that and we are willing to collaborate,” D’Onofrio said. During the course of the incidents, barras bravas did not occupy their usual place in the stadium , and many were reported to be in its vicinity, either robbing actual fans’ tickets, or clashing with police.
At this moment, the scenario is completely uncertain. And the clock is ticking for the teams, the tribunal, the Conmebol and the Club World Cup. However, at this point, the outcome will likely be anecdotal.
What was supposed to be one of the most important – if not the most – footballing events in Argentine history, ended up in shambles. And no one is very surprised.