It’s known as the Superclasico, a game bigger than all the others. Most rivalries say something like that; El Clasico, The Manchester Derby and the Derby Della Madonnina all seem to think they’re the biggest games in the world. In terms of quality, they may be, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss.
A Wild Superclasico Weekend
Boca Juniors v River Plate is something different. They are two clubs based in the same city, Buenos Aires, Argentina, that have been bitter rivals since before they existed. Boca are the champions of the people. Their stadium, La Bombonera, sits in the heart of one of Buenos Aires’s nastiest areas. River started there but moved out to the suburbs when they built El Monumental.
So, on Saturday, they were supposed to meet for the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final. With the winner being crowned Champions of South America, you can imagine the stakes. When the game is a Superclasico, you don’t need to imagine the chaos; it will all unfold right in front of your eyes.
The First Leg
Let’s start with the first leg, a thrilling 2-2 draw at La Bombonera right before the last international break. Boca took a first-half lead through a goal from Ramon Abila and thought they were on the front foot. However, their goal was equalised immediately off the kick-off when Lucas Pratto broke through the Boca defence and found the back of the net.
The second half was just as fiery with Boca taking the lead straight away thanks to a goal from Dario Benedetto, who had come on as a sub for the injured Cristian Pavon. Benedetto was great in this first leg and you could feel his passion after scoring the goal to give them the lead just after half-time. Boca hoped they could hold on from there, taking a lead into the second leg.
They could not, however. In the 61st minute, a set-piece came in that was headed into his own net by Carlos Izquierdoz. It was the 2-2 score that stayed the same for the rest of the day. The event went off without any issues, no red cards, no fan violence; a lovely advert for South American football.
Dark Times Inevitable
If only that peace could have lasted through both legs. On Saturday, both teams were set to enter El Monumental for the start of the second leg. It was supposed to be a massive game for South America; FIFA President Gianni Infantino is coming, CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez was there and so too Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.
When the Boca Juniors bus approached the stadium, they were accompanied by about ten Argentinian policemen on bikes. As they made the turn towards the stadium, they were met by a large group of River Plate ultras and they did what ultras do. They began pelting the bus with anything they could find, or the things they brought themselves.
Stones, bottles and the occasional tear gas grenade were hurled at the Boca bus on their turn into the stadium. Many of them made it into the bus. One stone knocked out the bus driver, tear gas grenade made it into the bus, going through a window and getting gas into the eyes of many players
Carlos Tevez was throwing up in the changing room when they reached the stadium. Boca captain Pablo Perez has spent the last two days being treated for getting tear gas and glass in his eye. He, along with Gonzalo Lamardo, were sent to the hospital immediately after arriving at the stadium. And unbelievably, they only wanted to delay the game by two hours and still play.
CONMEBOL and FIFA
Theses players were treated like dogs by the politicians. Alejandro Dominguez tried to make it clear on Saturday that game would continue, despite Boca insisting on postponement. Finally, the game was postponed until Sunday after both teams and both managers told the politicians that they would not play.
So they tried to come back this morning, only first we were waiting on whether or not Pablo Perez would be cleared to play. Then he was cleared, but Boca Juniors as a club decided not to play. Next, we heard CONMEBOL and FIFA were going to force them to play. Then Alejandro Dominguez met with the Boca team and even he couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.
So, Dominguez came out and told the media that the game would be postponed. When the game will be held we do not yet know. There is a meeting set between both presidents on Tuesday with CONMEBOL that will decide what happens with this tie.
There have been all kinds of crazy suggestions for the second leg of this game. River Plate want to play the game at El Monumental, almost like nothing ever happened. It seems Boca Juniors would like to play at a neutral site game or behind closed doors, which would really kill the atmosphere of a special tie.
There has been talk of taking this game to Abu Dhabi, which is the site of the FIFA Club World Cup, which the winner of this game gets to compete in. Of the options that sounds the most fair, it still means there gets to be fans and people watching the game.