MADRID • Fan violence surrounding the Copa Libertadores final has damaged Argentina and South America and overshadowed the achievements of Argentinian football, Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said on Friday.
Boca and fierce domestic rivals River Plate will play each other in Madrid today in the second leg of the final of South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.
The first leg on Nov 11 ended in a 2-2 draw but the return has been moved from Buenos Aires to Spain, after Boca players were injured when River fans attacked their team bus on the way to River’s Monumental stadium on Nov 24.
With Madrid police mounting the biggest security operation for a football game in the city, attention has turned to the risk of violence, with the match taking a back seat.
“Today, we should be talking about how River and Boca are putting Argentina on the highest pedestal possible but instead, we are talking about violence and not what the teams have achieved this season,” Schelotto said.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt from the same errors we made before and we ended up damaging Argentina and South America.”
The bus attack recalled a pepper spray attack on River players from a 2015 Libertadores game between the two sides. Argentinian campaign group Salvamos Al Futbol (Save Football) says 328 people have died at football matches and 92 of them came in the last decade.
Schelotto added that 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Boca’s last-ditch attempt to suspend the final was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) yesterday, clearing the way for the match to take place.
Boca filed their appeal to sport’s highest court on Friday after the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) rejected their claim that River be disqualified.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE