Boca-River final set for Dec 8-9 outside Argentina

The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate will be played in a neutral stadium outside Argentina on either Dec. 8 or 9, CONMEBOL executives said on Tuesday.

The final between the Buenos Aires arch-rivals, which was originally scheduled to take place at River Stadium last Saturday, was postponed after River fans attacked the Boca bus before the match.

It was initially rescheduled for Sunday but was again postponed. The first leg was drawn 2-2.

CONMEBOL chief Alejandro Dominguez handed a letter to both Boca Juniors and River Plate presidents ahead of their meeting on Tuesday in Asuncion, Paraguay.

The letter published by CONMEBOL read: “Regarding the violent incidents that took place in Buenos Aires on November 24, 2018, which put at risk the safety of the players, officials and fans, including criminal offences which the Argentinian authorities are still investigating, it’s wise that the final shall not be played in that country…

“In order to ensure the sporting Copa Libertadores (tournament) is completed, CONMEBOL has resolved: a: That the 2018 Copa Libertadores return leg will be carried out either on the 8th or 9th December in a venue and time to be defined by CONMEBOL’s administration (subject to the ruling of the disciplinary tribunal). b: CONMEBOL will incur all the travel expenses for up to 40 people per delegation. c: CONMEBOL will coordinate the security with the relevant authorities.”

Paraguay chief of police Walter Vazquez has offered the Defensores del Chaco stadium in Asuncion, Paraguay, as a venue.

“We are working with the logistics to see how the operation could be,” he told ABC Cardinal AM730 radio on Tuesday.

CONMEBOL opened disciplinary proceedings earlier on Tuesday against the River Plate fans who attacked the Boca Juniors bus. The confederation said River had 24 hours to present their defence at its headquarters in Luque, Paraguay.

An initial decision to delay the game on Saturday after the first violence led to more trouble inside and outside the stadium, with local media reporting that at least 30 people had been arrested.

Away supporters have been banned from football matches in Argentina since 2013 because of recurring violence.

Boca filed a formal petition to CONMEBOL, asking for River to be punished for the bus attack near the Monumental de Nunez Stadium, in which several players, including Boca captain Pablo Perez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, were hurt and taken to nearby hospitals.

In their request, Boca cited an article in the regulations which could lead to the club being awarded the Copa Libertadores title without the second leg being played, something the River leadership considered a “complete and utter disgrace.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was in Buenos Aires at the weekend to watch the much-anticipated game, said he supported CONMEBOL’s decision to postpone the game and told La Nacion newspaper: “I’m saddened by Saturday’s events. There should be no room for violence in football. The safety and well-being of players, spectators and officials should always be the main priority.”

The first leg between the sides finished 2-2 at La Bombonera on Nov. 11, with the game played a day later than scheduled due to heavy rain in Buenos Aires.

Boca believe River Plate should be disqualified and that Boca should be awarded the title. They threaten to refuse to play and go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if CONMEBOL’s disciplinary committee rules otherwise.

Boca president Daniel Angelici said after the meeting: “We will not accept to play until the tribunal gives its ruling, with arguments, as we believe that Boca is in the right. If we are not in agreement (with that verdict), then we will appeal to the court of appeal. We will go as far as we can within the CONMEBOL administration and if we have to go to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) we will.”

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