By Daniela Desantis
ASUNCION (Reuters) – The Copa Libertadores soccer final between River Plate and Boca Juniors will take place in early December and will be played outside Argentina after crowd trouble forced the game to be postponed last week, organizers said on Tuesday.
The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said in a statement that the game – the South American equivalent of the Champions League final in Europe – should be played on Dec. 8 or 9, but did not specify an alternative location.
After drawing the first leg 2-2, Argentina’s two biggest clubs were due to have met in the decisive second leg on Saturday at River’s Monumental stadium but the match was called off after several Boca players were hurt when their bus was pelted with rocks by River fans.
“It will be played outside Argentina because the conditions do not exist for the game to be played in Argentina,” CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez told a news conference after meeting with the heads of both clubs at the confederation’s headquarters in Paraguay.
The showdown between the fierce Buenos Aires rivals was billed as the greatest final in the competition’s 58-year history.
Both legs were sold out and fans and media came from around the world to watch what many consider to be one of the most bitter rivalries and impressive spectacles in world sport.
However, Argentine football was disgraced after River fans threw stones and missiles at the Boca bus as it made its way to the stadium, breaking windows and injuring players.
Tear gas or pepper spray got into the vehicle, disorienting players and causing some to vomit. Boca captain Pablo Perez was taken to hospital with cuts to his eye and several other players suffered lacerations caused by shards of glass from broken windows.
Even though the stadium was filled to capacity, Boca said they were in no state to play the game and CONMEBOL first delayed the match and then postponed it until Sunday.
On Sunday, they called the game off once again after Boca complained that a fair contest could not be guaranteed if the game was played at the River stadium.
The postponements of what was supposed to have been a gala occasion for South American football was a huge embarrassment to CONMEBOL and Argentina, which this week hosts a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations.
The Paraguayan capital of Asuncion has been suggested as one venue to host the rescheduled game, as has Miami. Cities in Italy, Brazil and Colombia have also reportedly offered to host the game.
The new date will ensure the Libertadores champions can compete in this year’s Club World Cup, which starts on Dec. 12 in the United Arab Emirates.
The CONMEBOL winners play their first match in the tournament on Dec. 18 and could face UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid in the final.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Downie and the Buenos Aires Newsroom; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Grant McCool)