Sun, Dec 09, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Madrid prepares for Copa final reboot

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM:Double the security has been deployed, two fans were sent away at the border and Boca filed an appeal with the CAS to disqualify River

AFP and AP, MADRID

Boca Juniors fans wait at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires on Friday to travel to Madrid for the Copa Libertadores final.

Photo: EPA

Half a world away and 15 days later than planned, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate is to be concluded today.

There have been refusals, complaints and threats to go to court, but the players of Boca and River, Argentina’s two greatest soccer rivals, landed in Madrid and all indications are that the second leg is to be played.

A group of 400 to 500 “especially violent” fans from Argentina are expected to make the trip to Madrid for the final, Spanish authorities said.

Nearly 4,000 security personnel would be deployed for the match, nearly double the number used in the clasicos between Real Madrid and Barcelona, officials said.

“The national police is working closely with the Argentine police,” Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes told Cadena SER radio on Friday. “We are working with the maximum security level at the airport, highways, bus stops and subway stations.”

One Boca Juniors fan known to be a leader of a supporters’ group was not allowed to enter the country after arriving in Madrid on Thursday. He was sent back to Argentina after authorities said he had a long criminal record.

Spanish media reported that a River fan was also deported after failing to gain permission to enter the country.

Both teams trained on Thursday, with the players appearing in good spirits, laughing and joking, jumping on each other’s backs.

There was even a smattering of fans waiting outside, some holding flags or notebooks open for autographs, even if it was a world away from the rocking Bombonera, which was packed out for an open training session before the original fixture was due last month.

That game had to be postponed three times after River fans injured Boca players during an attack on their team’s bus.

It could have been canceled or awarded to Boca, but the South American Football Confederation chose to relocate to Spain.

A final at the Santiago Bernabeu should be something to savor, particularly when it is the Copa Libertadores at stake.

Instead, as players finished training and spoke to journalists, the sense of regret became clear.

“It is a weird final,” said Carlos Tevez, a former Manchester United and Manchester City player who is now a striker for Boca. “To play a match between Boca and River in Madrid, it’s weird.”

“Unfortunately for me, this match has lost importance in my heart,” Real Madrid’s Argentine coach Santiago Solari said on Wednesday.

Boca believe River should have forfeited the trophy and on Friday said they have filed the case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

A club official said they would continue with the appeal regardless of what happens today.

Meanwhile, River have lost the home advantage enjoyed by Boca in the first leg, which finished 2-2.

Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto believes restoration will take longer.

“We need time,” he said. “We need matches of this quality played in Argentina or South America to show that we have matured.”

For each club, the 20,000 tickets allocated to fans in Spain and elsewhere sold out within hours, but some of the 5,000 for residents in Argentina remain available.

Inside the stadium, a vacant block of seats is to act as a buffer between the two sets of supporters.

For River and Boca, the winners are to hoist the cup and then join Real Madrid at the World Club Cup in the United Arab Emirates later this month. River would also qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores.

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