Boca Juniors vs River Plate: The timeless classic that turned into an all-time disgrace
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By now, everyone must be aware of the recent events in the 2018 Copa Libertadores final. What was built up as an all-time classic between Boca Juniors and River Plate has indeed grabbed headlines around the world. Unfortunately, it's been due to all the wrong reasons.
With the first leg having been postponed because of a thunderstorm, the rescheduled game didn't disappoint. Boca Juniors and River Plate played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at La Bombonera, in which the home team relinquished the lead twice. That match produced added anticipation for the second leg following November's international break. What happened next was disappointing, to say the least.
The game was meant to take place this past Saturday. However, Boca Juniors’ bus suffered a criminal attack by River Plate supporters, with them on its path, throwing stones, bottles and pepper spray, among other things. Two Boca players suffered injuries. Several meetings and a three-hour delay later, CONMEBOL decided to postpone the fixture.
Originally, the contest was rescheduled for Sunday. South America's football governing body instead called it off as ''the sporting conditions to hold this match were not present”. Translation? River Plate would have had an advantage considering events of the previous hours. There was then a meeting on Tuesday to decide the next step but, once again, no agreement could be made.
Right now, Boca Juniors do not wish to play. That doesn't appear a possibility, though, given what's at stake. River Plate want the game on their own turf, but CONMEBOL is not willing to take any more risks. The only certainty is the match will be played on either the 8 or 9 December. Where remains up for debate.
Alternatives include hosting in Doha (Qatar) Asuncion (Paraguay), Milan (Italy) and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). The first suggestion is gaining the most traction, with some recent reports claiming it's a done deal.
This wasn't the first time there has been off-field issues between these two sides in the Copa Libertadores. When they met three years ago, River Plate players were attacked by Boca Juniors fans using pepper spray. As a result, Los Millonarios progressed due to the Xeneizes' disqualification.
So why wasn't there such an outcome this time? It's simple. Boca’s pepper spray incident happened inside the stadium; River’s supporters attacked the bus outside the venue. Apparently, that represents a huge differential on the CONMEBOL criteria.
Carlos Tevez hasn't reacted to it too well. The former Manchester City and Juventus striker didn’t hold back, asking, “why can’t River get the trophy already? That’s what CONMEBOL wants. They would have made a different decision had this happened on Boca’s stadium”. Although there's no way of knowing whether his remarks are right or wrong, history has taught he may have a valid point.
Few words are strong enough to describe Saturday's events. Disappointing. Shameful. Embarrassing. An absolute disgrace to the footballing world, mostly the entire CONMEBOL community. Argentina has given itself an awful look, at a time when the nation reportedly wants to host the 2030 World Cup. Perhaps the saddest thing here is no one wants to take full responsibility.
Expected to prove an all-time classic between two Argentine powerhouses, it quickly turned into an all-time disgrace. Undoubtedly, no one will ever forget this Copa Libertadores final. Unfortunately, it will be for all the wrong reasons.