For the second time in two weeks, the Copa Libertadores final will be postponed a day.
The two-legged final pits Buenos Aires archrivals Boca Juniors and River Plate against each other in the climax of the biggest tournament in the Western Hemisphere. The first match ended in a 2-2 draw at Boca’s La Bombonera a day after it was originally scheduled due to torrential rain. The second leg was slated for Saturday, but wild scenes outside River’s Estadio Monumental forced CONMEBOL to postpone the match — eventually.
While postponing a match is never an easy decision, it’s one that honestly should’ve been made earlier given the events that unfolded in Buenos Aires. The match was twice pushed back before ultimately being postponed a day.
As Boca players traveled to El Monumental for the second leg, stones were thrown at the windows of the team bus. With the windows open, tear gas seeped into the bus. The driver passed out and as many as six players had to be treated for injuries and vomiting. The scenes were terrifying, as we highlighted here.
Video shows Boca Juniors bus from inside during the attack. pic.twitter.com/d4CDJWylLO
And yet, for whatever reasons, CONMEBOL was adamant the match would be played on Saturday, with a CONMEBOL doctor saying the players only received “superficial” injuries and should be able to play.
Según el médico de Conmebol, las lesiones de los jugadores de #Boca son "superficiales" y "desde el punto de vista médico no hay motivos para suspender el partido". Vía @TyCSports pic.twitter.com/pjcM1BPbdR— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) November 24, 2018
Some reports suggested FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was on hand, compelled them to play the game for the sake of the TV commitments while others had their own theories.
For those asking, why don’t they just wait and play the game? G20 summit, featuring Trump, Putin, Xi and other leaders, opens Friday. Argentine security apparatus — almost no country’s security — could handle both next Saturday. https://t.co/HFTmbCEC7G— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) November 24, 2018
Before the match, Carlos Tevez said the players were in no shape to play, but they were being forced to play against their will. Then, not long after the second delayed start time, the match was officially postponed until Sunday.
The Copa Libertadores final second leg now will be played back at El Monumental at 5:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. local time) on Sunday. (Here’s how to watch it.)
Initial reports suggested River Plate players joined Boca in refusing to play. While we can’t confirm that, such a gesture would be a small piece of sanity on an insane day in Buenos Aires.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez: “There was an agreement between both the presidents of the two clubs and a “gentleman’s pact”. We won’t tolerate any of this. But the game will be played tomorrow at 5pm.”
Reports that River Plate players refused to play. If that’s the case: respect. Only decent gesture of this sordid afternoon.— marcela mora y araujo (@marc_cart) November 24, 2018
The Copa Libertadores final between two of the biggest rivals in the world (read why here) had set the stage for a wild climax to South America’s biggest club competition.
But after the Boca bus was attacked, scenes outside the stadium only grew worse.
New incidents around The Monumental, clashes between River Plate fans and police, and protest urging not to postpone the game. pic.twitter.com/Kh5i2tIPne
The fights outside the stadium are getting more tense, reports suggesting that non-football fans are are joining and participating in the protests against the police. pic.twitter.com/XbFwg1VUrP
Eventually, common sense prevailed and the match was postponed, avoiding what could have been catastrophic riots.
Had River Plate won, Boca fans might've taken to the streets to protest. Had Boca won, River fans might have made it impossible for the team to leave the stadium.
Not that it made for a good ending on Saturday.
It's not looking good at all outside the stadium, as fans are leaving the after the game was postponed. pic.twitter.com/z4ZI9XXdDN
Now, we’ll doing it all again Sunday. Let’s hope everyone behaves.