Passion and emotion spilled out into ugly scenes ahead of the Copa Libertadores final in Argentina, as fans attacked the team coach of Boca Juniors as it made its way to the stadium, leading to the showpiece final being postponed.
The coach was pelted with missiles as it approached the Estadio Monumental, with hostile River Plate fans looking to get into the heads of the players and launch an attack which culminated in several windows being smashed and the situation drastically getting out of control.
Several emergency meetings of CONMEBOL officials were held – initially delaying the fixture by two hours before postponing the fixture all together – despite over 70,000 fans packing into the ground and waiting for the final to get under way.
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The Boca Juniors coach was guided in by police forces after taking a battering in the streets en-route to the stadium
The coach was ferrying the players to the stadium ahead of the decisive match in the Copa Libertadores final
TV cameras picked up images of the aftermath, with portions of window visibly smashed on the team coach
Fans of both rival teams had gathered in the streets in the build up to what is set to be the biggest game of the season
Boca Juniors released an image on social media of midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, showing the extend of his injuries
Boca midfielder Pablo Perez was in need of medical attention as a result of the attack and was swiftly taken to hospital once the coach reached the safety of the stadium, returning later to the ground with a heavily bandaged eye. It was later confirmed that the fixture will take place instead on Sunday, with kick-off scheduled for 5pm local time.
There were angry scenes after the game was postponed as thousands of fans spilled back out onto the streets, Riot police were seen having to shelter from missiles thrown by some supporters.
There is even a possibility that the game may not take place at River Plate’s stadium on Sunday, with local media reporting that the authorities have closed the ground and police are refusing to provide protection for the rearranged match.
Boca’s players took to the pitch at the stadium four hours after the game was due to kick-off, still clearly shaken by the earlier events. Former Manchester United and Manchester City star Carlos Tevez looked in shock after a traumatic day in his home city, while Perez’s eye was covered with a bandage. River and Boca bosses Marcelo Gallardo and Gustavo Barros Schelotto were also deep in conversation.
Outside, numerous fans who had been involved in the trouble on the streets were detained by local police after a day that shamed Argentinian football.
Carlos Tevez was struggling to hold back the tears as he made his way onto the pitch at an empty Estadio Monumental
Players, including Pablo Perez who had to go to hospital for treatment, took to the pitch four hours after it was meant to start
River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo and opposite number Gustavo Barros Schelotto were deep in conversation on the pitch
The River Plate fans involved in the trouble both inside and outside the stadium were detained by the local authorities
Videos showed at least ten fans thought to be involved in the trouble detained inside a nearby doorway as police look on
Seeking to bring the situation under control, police forces resorted to the use of pepper spray in order to disperse the crowds and allow the damaged coach passage through to the stadium without further incident.
However the pepper spray spread into the coach, with Boca players complaining of severe discomfort as a result ahead of what is set to be their most important match of the season. Such was the severity of the attack, the driver later spoke to local media and revealed he fainted as a result.
‘At the moment of the attacks I fainted and the vice-president of Boca took the wheel,’ he admitted, after being treated at the stadium.
The fixture was finely poised at 2-2 following the first leg clash between the two teams, in which Ramon Abila and Dario Benedetto struck for Boca, and Lucas Pratto and Carlos Izquierdoz found the back of the net for River.
The animated swelling of supporters outside the stadium soon became considerably more subdued, as scenes of singing and excitement turned into hushed tones as fans quickly realised the decisive game was in danger of being postponed.
News quickly spread of multiple Boca players suffering severely with the effects of pepper spray and throwing up as a result. Talisman Tevez was among those affected, while Leonardo Jara was cut by glass as a result of being covered in shards after the windows smashing.
The Boca coach was making its way to the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti ahead of the fixture
A heavy police presence was deployed on the streets, ahead of the crunch final between the two bitter rivals
Thousands of supporters still remained in and around the stadium as the decision was made on whether the game would start
Supporters were left sitting inside the stadium, waiting on news regarding whether the match would actually commence
A follow-up CONMEBOL announcement then confirmed that the game would go ahead later, before then being abandoned
The stadium was at maximum capacity when the fixture was finally deemed to be unable to go ahead
The club doctor of Boca Juniors later shared an image taken of duo Pablo Pérez and Gonzalo Lamaro, in which both players could be seen with eyes bandaged after coming into contact with glass debris from the windows.
Local news crews were able to gain access to the coach once the players had disembarked, and broadcast images of the wreckage that remained. Several windows could be seen to have been smashed completely open, with glass and debris strewn across the vehicle.
Upon reaching the dressing rooms of the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, some Boca players took to social media to show the aftermath of the disastrous arrival to the ground.
Players wiped their faces in the changing room and dealt with the feelings of dizziness and nausea caused by the pepper spray, while club medical staff attended to others. Others could be seen wiping away traces of blood.
Stewards watched on as thousands of River Plate fans hummed away in the stands, anxious on whether the game would play
Police were quickly called to line the streets of the surrounding area once it was confirmed the match was to be called off
Chaotic scenes soon ensued as riot police were met by supporters outside the stadium following the cancellation
Flares and smoke canisters were thrown as police battled to keep the situation under control as supporters departed
Riot police are likely to be deployed again on Sunday when the Copa Libertadores final is now scheduled to commence
Releasing an official statement via their official social media channels, CONMEBOL announced: ‘Due to the events of the Boca Juniors Club bus, the game has been postponed until at least 18:00 hours’ [local time – 9.00pm UK].
A further CONMEBOL announcement then confirmed the game shall be played at 10.30pm UK time. Pressure was thought to have been ramped up by broadcasters desperate to showcase the headline event, though protestations from Boca quickly saw a U-turn on the decision to play and a notice to abandon the fixture for Saturday.
Club president Daniel Angelici told Fox Sports Argentina: ‘It is a game where emotions play and we understood that the conditions were not given by the injuries. I asked for the rescheduling. We win the games or lose them inside the pitch. But we can’t play like that either.
‘There are players of ours with glass splinters and with respiratory problems by the gas. After the first meeting, it was [scheduled to be] played.
‘When we saw the amount of cuts that some players had and the lack of air, we had to apply injections. There I saw that the conditions were not normal.
‘When I returned to the locker room I saw the players’ status and said it didn’t seem fair. I have to thank CONMEBOL and River for the disposition. It’s not easy to make this kind of decision when there are so many people in the stadium, let’s hope tomorrow is in peace.’
Large sections of supporters were respectful of the situation and made their way past the assembled lines of riot police
The stadium was prepared and ready for the Super Clasico to go ahead, with tifos in River colours adorning the stands
Tevez himself took a moment to speak to Argentina’s media as the teams initially waited for the delayed kick-off, during which he expressed clearly his dissatisfaction with the situation and suggested an unwillingness to play.
‘The players are not in condition to play. They are forcing us to play the game,’ said the striker. He also referred to a 2015 incident between the two clubs, when in reverse circumstances River Plate players were targeted by fans and Boca were thrown out of the competition as a result.
‘When the 2015 [incident] happened, River complained that none of Boca had sympathised. No one came here today,’ Tevez added.