Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | ePaper

Rebooted Libertadores final a treat for Madrid soured by regret

  • Print
AFP, Madrid :
Six thousand miles away and 15 days later than planned, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate will be concluded.
There have been refusals, complaints and threats to go to court, but the players of Boca and River, Argentina's two greatest football rivals, landed in Madrid and all indications are the second leg will be played.
Both teams trained on Thursday, Boca at the Spanish national team's base at Las Rozas and River at Real Madrid's Valdebebas, 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, 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 cancelled, or awarded to Boca, but CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, chose to relocate to Spain.
A final at the Santiago Bernabeu should be something to savour, particularly when it is the Copa Libertadores at stake on Sunday, the most prestigious prize in South American club football.
Instead, as players finished training and spoke to journalists, the sense of regret became clear. "It is a weird final," said Carlos Tevez, once of Manchester United and Manchester City, and now a striker for Boca. "To play a match between Boca and River in Madrid, it's weird."
River goalkeeper Franco Armani said: "We would have liked to play the game at home, on our pitch, in front of our fans, who deserve it, but the decision is made. We have to make the best of it."
CONMEBOL pointed to Madrid as a "neutral" host city, with the largest Argentinian community outside Argentina, and a long and successful tradition of football. It will host the Champions League final in June too.
For many, however, this was the most important match in Argentina's history and its removal a national embarrassment. After all, the Copa Libertadores was named after those that secured independence from countries like Spain in the early nineteenth century.
"Unfortunately for me, this match has lost importance in my heart," said Real Madrid's Argentinian coach Santiago Solari on Wednesday.
Boca and River had initially refused. Boca believe River should have forfeited the trophy and have said they will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Depending on the result this weekend, they still might.

More News For this Category

Schulz grabs late winner as Germany beat Netherlands 3-2

Schulz grabs late winner as Germany beat Netherlands 3-2

AP, Amsterdam :Joachim Loew may be building a new Germany team, but it has inherited a trait from previous incarnations of the Mannschaft - never knowing when it is beaten.Nico

Brazil denied victory by determined Panama

Brazil denied victory by determined Panama

AFP, Portugal :Brazil were held to a 1-1 draw against Panama in an international friendly played at Porto's Dragao Stadium on Saturday.AC Milan's Lucas Paqueta claimed his first international goal

Abahani, Mohammedan to clash in season's first high-voltage match today

Bangladesh cricket's most intriguing rivalry is set to be renewed once again as Mohammedan Sporting Club will take on archrivals Abahani Ltd today in a Dhaka Premier League (DPL) round

State Minister for Youth and Sports Zahid Ahsan Russell inaugurating the Dhaka Metropolis Second Division Football League by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in the city's Kamalapur on Sunday.

State Minister for Youth and Sports Zahid Ahsan Russell inaugurating the Dhaka Metropolis Second Division Football League by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in the city's Kamalapur on Sunday.

Hand of God? Bangladeshi's Messi drawing comes alive

Hand of God? Bangladeshi's Messi drawing comes alive

A young Bangladeshi architect has earned fame after his digital drawing of footballer Lionel Messi was matched in real life six years later.Suhas Nahian's 2013 artwork shows Messi dribbling past

Barella, Kean get Italy off the mark in Euro 2020 qualifiers

Nicolo Barella and Moise Kean scored in either half to get the new-look Italy off to a winning start in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier with a 2-0 victory over

Spain survive Norway scare to kick-off campaign with win

Spain survive Norway scare to kick-off campaign with win

Spain held off a battling Norway to open their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win on Saturday in Valencia.Luis Enrique's side controlled play with quick accurate passing and

Venezuela down Argentina on Messi return

Venezuela down Argentina on Messi return

AFP, Madrid :Argentina suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Venezuela on Friday as Lionel Messi made his first international appearance since the 2018 World Cup.Barcelona star Messi started the fixture

England, France win big, Portugal held as Euro defense opens

England, France win big, Portugal held as Euro defense opens

AP, London :Big and slick wins for France and England. Not even a goal for Portugal.Even with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the Portugal side for the first time since last

Div II Football League begins today

Div II Football League begins today

Sports Reporter :The Dhaka Metropolis Second Division Football League begins today at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sepoy Mohdammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in the city's today.Tongi Krira Chakra will face Gouripur