Sunday, October 24, 2021

SPORTS | 31-10-2019 17:02

Copa Libertadores final once more troubles South America

One year on, South American football faces a familiar question: Where will the final of Copa Libertadores be played?

One year on, South American football faces a familiar question: Where will the final of Copa Libertadores be played?

Last year, the deciding game between local giants River Plate and Boca Juniors had to be moved to Madrid because of violent incidents in Buenos Aires. Now, this year's final in Santiago, Chile, is suddenly in doubt because of the social turmoil in the country.

River and Brazil's Flamengo are scheduled to face off at the Estádio Nacional on November 23, in the competition's first single-match final after the format was changed to mimic the Champions League.

No guarantees

Chile was picked to host the South American club final because it was seen an example of political stability and economic development in the region. But now, 20 days before the Copa Libertadores final, South American football's governing body CONMEBOL cannot guarantee that the match will be played there.

Match tickets, media accreditations and hotel reservations were made before Chile's uprising began two weeks ago, with at least 20 people dead since then. Protesters want better pensions, healthcare and education, among other demands.

Some protesters have said they will not stand down until Chilean President Sebastián Piñera resigns and the country's Constitution, which dates back to the days of dictator Augusto Pinochet, is reformed.

Chile's government and CONMEBOL on Wednesday insisted that the final is set to go ahead in Santiago, despite Piñera having called off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and UN global climate gatherings earlier that day.


But the concerns remain.

"I am worried about the situation Chile is going through," said River coach Marcelo Gallardo. "We hope this can be settled with peace because of their country and their people and also because of us, so we can be sure where we will play."

The second leg of last year's Copa Libertadores final was supposed to be played at River's Monumental de Nuñez stadium. But the match scheduled for Nov. 24 never happened after local fans pelted a Boca Juniors bus with rocks, injuring three Boca players.

CONMEBOL moved the decider to Spain against the will of both Argentine clubs. The Millo won 3-1 at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

If the game is moved again, Argentina and Brazil will be ineligible to host it as the countries of the two finalists. Paraguay's Nueva Olla stadium in Asuncion will be used two weeks earlier for the Copa Sudamericana final between Ecuador's Independiente del Valle and Argentina's Colón de Santa Fe.

Flamengo midfielder Everton Ribeiro says his team is not thinking about any possible changes.

"People will cheer for us wherever we play," he said. "CONMEBOL said it will be Chile, so we are thinking about Chile and the final."

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by DEBORA REY, Associated Press


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