Argentinian side Atletico Tucuman extended their debut Copa Libertadores campaign despite arriving more than an hour late and without their kit for Tuesday’s crunch clash with El Nacional.
Tucuman based themselves in Guayaquil at sea level on Ecuador’s Pacific coast and intended to fly to Quito on the afternoon of the match – a tactic used by many travelling sides to combat the side-effects associated with playing 2,800 metres above sea level.
However, with the tie poised at 2-2 following their home leg, Tucuman’s plans were thrown into disarray when their flight was not authorised to take off due to the club’s paperwork not being in order.
Pablo Lavallen’s squad were allowed to board the plane half an hour before the scheduled 19:15 local time kick-off – something that was academic by that point, with El Nacional’s opponents stranded over 400 kilometres away.
FIFA regulations allow for teams to be up to 45 minutes late for the start of a match and 20 minutes before this deadline – without their playing kit – Tucuman landed in Quito and Argentina’s ambassador to Ecuador, Luis Juez, made an angry appeal to television reporters, imploring El Nacional to let the visitors play.
A mere one hour, seven minutes after the stipulated kick-off time, Tucuman’s hastily driven coach arrived at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa and a patriotic solution to their apparel woes became clear.
Atlético de Tucumán juega con la ropa de la Selección Argentina pic.twitter.com/9MvSPPwdai
— Luis Alfredo Juez (@ljuez_Ecuador) February 8, 2017
The stadium is presently hosting the CONMEBOL Under-20 Championship, meaning Tucuman were able to don Argentina’s kits after their young compatriots fell to a 3-0 defeat against Ecuador over the weekend.
Following the far from ideal preparation, a looping header from striker Fernando Zampedri after the hour meant a sizable measure of national pride was restored with a 1-0 win.
Tucuman will have to travel to Barranquilla to face Junior of Colombia in the final qualifying round. Online check-in, anyone?
— Atlético Tucumán Of. (@ATOficial) February 8, 2017
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