By Samindra Kunti in Madrid
December 7 – On Sunday, at last, the final of all finals will come to an end as River Plate and Boca Juniors face off for glory in the Copa Libertadores in Madrid. Governing body Conmebol shifted the game over security concerns to the Spanish capital, where a huge security operation is underway.
The showpiece event descended into farce when the Boca bus was attacked before the second leg, leaving Conmebol red-faced over the poor organisation of its flagship club final. The second leg was postponed and ultimately moved to Madrid. Miami and Doha had been touted as other host cities, but those options were, amid plenty of politicking, discarded.
Boca Juniors demanded they’d be awarded the cup and River objected to losing home advantage, but Conmebol refused. Argentineans, however, have expressed their anger at the removal of their club final. “It’s a weird feeling to play the final of the Copa Libertadores in the Bernabeu,” said Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tevez. “It’s sad we can’t play this match in our own country. I don’t think it should have been played here.”
With the backlash still reverberating at home in Argentina, Spanish authorities are preparing for a security operation on a massive scale, which will far outstrip similar measures for Spain’s own Clasico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Reports suggest that anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 police officers and other security personnel will be deployed for the final.
Both clubs were allocated 5,000 tickets, but given the high expenses for transatlantic travel, they struggled to sell out their allocation. A further 40,000 tickets were sold to the two sets of fans in Spain.
Conmebol informed fans of the rules that must be followed while attending a game in Spain, stating that public disorder is prohibited, that possession of flares and weapons is not allowed inside the stadium and that banners inciting violence or terrorism are forbidden.
Local authorities have laid out plans for crowd control. The area around the Bernabeu will be sealed for fans on Sunday morning. River Plate will have a fanzone at the Plaza de Cuzco. Boca supports will be in the south near the Nuevo Ministerios subway station.
After the match, fans of Boca will be directed to the Neptune Fountain, favoured by Atletico Madrid fans. The River faithful have been allocated the Plaza de Cibeles, the public party venue for Real Madrid fans.
The final will see a swathe of VIPS in attendance, including Lionel Messi and FIFA president Gianni Infantino. This time, all involved will hope that the longest final ever – the first leg was played on Remembrance Day – plays out peacefully with a rightful winner at the end of this 29-day saga.
Contact the writer of this story Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1558781275labto1558781275ofdlr1558781275owedi1558781275sni@o1558781275fni1558781275