It’s the most anticipated fixtures in South American football. The Copa Libertadores final is always the biggets game of the season, with clubs putting victory in the competition ahead of their domestic success. In 2011 after Santos had won the Brazilian League, many players decided to stay at the club so they could play in the Copa Libertadores the following season, despite multi-million euro offers from clubs in Europe.
This time it became the final to end all finals. Boca Juniors and River Plate are Argentina’s two biggest and most successful clubs, and their rivalry is regarded by may as the most fierce in the world. The clubs have met 25 times in the Copa Libertadores, but never in the final, so this was set up to be the biggest club match in Argentina’s history.
In Argentina, 70% of football fans support one of these two clubs and the Observer newspaper once said “Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about.”
It the game that’s been on my bucket list for years. I have been wanting to go to this game and was fortunate one of my dear friends Orlando at Fox invited me to go to the game with him. The plan was set and we were supposed to fly out on the Friday before the game.
After the 2-2 draw in the first leg of the final we were set up the second leg with everything perfectly balanced. The World was watching and the competition had been getting more recognition from Europe than ever before. As we approached the second leg many fans in Argentina complained of sleepless nights as they were anxious about the result.
Late on Thursday Orlando said he might not make it because of work and concerns about safety. In the end we had to cancel the trip, and look what happened. We were lucky we didn’t fly into Argentina and experience the biggest derby in the world.
On matchday the fans’ anxiety turned into excitement, and eventually it overflowed into violence as River Plate fans attacked Boca’s team bus. The players were shaken and some were vomiting after riot police had sprayed tear gas, so the game had to be rescheduled for the following day. Then Boca Juniors requested that CONMEBOL needed to make sure the second leg was played under fair and equal circumstances, and that it should be suspended to give their players time to recover.
One of my first ever derbies was Feyenoord v Ajax, and our bus got attacked with one of the windows getting trashed. We were all told to get on the floor until we got out off the bus at the stadium. We won the game and a new bus had to come and pick us up after the game. The next two meetings were played without any away fans. That’s the most boring atmosphere to play in, because you want to feel the rivalry when you’re on the field.
It’s a huge shame that the anticipation for the event had bubbled over, and now we have to wait to see what happens. As it stands the final second leg is set to be played on 8 or 9 December, at a venue outside of Argentina. But Boca are insistent that they do not want the return leg to go ahead, and have formally requested that River be disqualified.
I will be seeing this game one day but this time I will be watching from home.
All want is for everyone to be safe and just enjoy so the best team of the day can win. #mmlove