Argentinian football the loser in Copa Libertadores final, says Boca's Schelotto

Boca Juniors and River Plate are meeting in the Copa Libertadores final for the first time but playing the match abroad has been perceived as a great opportunity missed.

Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto speaking at a press conference in Spain.   -  AFP

Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto has admitted that no matter who wins the Copa Libertadores in Madrid on Sunday, Argentinian football will have lost to violence.

River Plate and Boca will play the delayed second leg of the final at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium after the original game was postponed last month, following an attack by River fans on the Boca team bus.

CONMEBOL, South America's football federation, decided to rearrange the fixture, controversially moving it from Argentina to Spain amid fears of further fan violence.

READ | Boca fans send me death threats, says River president

“We should have played in our own country but unfortunately that is not possible,” Schelotto said on Friday from the Spanish national team's training base.

“Unfortunately, we never learn. It seems we make the same mistakes over and over again, and what is damaged is the image of Argentinian and South American football.

“Today we should be talking about how River and Boca made Argentina proud and instead, we are talking about violence. Again, we have lost to violence.”

 

A traditionally highly-charged derby has been magnified by the fact Boca and River are meeting in the final of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, for the first time.

But two Argentinian teams contesting South America's most prestigious club prize abroad, and in Spain, has been perceived as a great opportunity missed.

ALSO READ | CONMEBOL rejects Boca appeal against River sanctions

CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez has described the situation as an “embarrassment” and a “disgrace”, while Schelotto believes it will take time for Argentinian football to recover.

“On its own, Real Madrid's stadium seems excellent to me,” Schelotto said. “But we need time, we need matches of this quality played in Argentina or South America and to show that we have matured.

“What happened 15 days ago is regrettable and it has to change because when you can't play a Boca against River match in Argentina, that is worrying.”

— River Plate at a disadvantage —

The first leg at Boca's Bombonera ground finished 2-2 and Schelotto admitted it is inevitable the players will have been affected by the controversy.

“To play this final we had to leave home almost a week ago,” Schelotto said. “We played the first game a month ago. It has been intense and the atmosphere doesn't feel normal. It's the same for River, but it has been too much, for the players and coaches.”

Away fans were banned from attending the first leg at the Bombonera and River would have enjoyed the same home advantage at their stadium, El Monumental.

But both sets of supporters have been given an equal allocation of 25,000 tickets each at the Bernabeu.

D'Onofrio says River should not have been punished for the behaviour of “40 to 50 delinquents”.

“River's responsibility is zero,” he said. “It was the security system that failed, absolutely and totally.”

He added: “River are the victims. We are at a disadvantage because we played in Boca's stadium and now Boca are not playing at River's stadium.”