The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final will not take place in Argentina – providing it even goes ahead at all.
CONMEBOL announced on Tuesday that it would not be “prudent” to allow River Plate to host the match against Boca Juniors, which was postponed after the visitors’ team bus was attacked by home fans en route to the stadium on Saturday. Having a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Friday will not help the stretched police forces, either.
A disciplinary tribunal is meeting to decide whether or not to disqualify River following the incident – a sanction Boca are keen to see enforced – but, if CONMEBOL’s disciplinary tribunal decides the match will be played on the newly proposed dates of either December 8 or 9, then they must find a willing venue.
There are four main candidates: Asuncion, Genoa, Miami, and the United Arab Emirates. But which is most likely?
Paraguay’s capital city appears one of the simplest solutions to the problem.
It is the location of CONMEBOL’s headquarters, where River and Boca’s presidents met with continental executives on Tuesday to discuss what happens next. It is only a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires and boasts a suitable stadium, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, which seats close to 42,000 spectators and was renovated only three years ago.
The problem with Asuncion lies in the choice of dates. December 8 is the Virgin of Caacupe in Paraguay, an annual religious festival and a national holiday. Staging such a high-profile football match over the same weekend could see security forces stretched; given CONMEBOL are under huge pressure to avoid a repeat of the incidents of last weekend, that is far from ideal.
The northern Italian city of Genoa has already offered to host the match. The regional sports director, Stefano Anzalone, said they would be “very proud” to welcome Boca and River and added that such an occasion would “give international visibility to Genoa” as the city attempts to recover from the tragic collapse of the Morandi Bridge in August, which killed dozens of people.
There has always been a strong link between Genoa, River and Boca, given both clubs were founded by Italians who emigrated to Argentina in the early 1900s. But Genoa play at the Luigi Ferraris on December 9 against SPAL, which adds to the logistical nightmare for all concerned, even before the travel time of more than 15 hours is factored in.
“A stain on Argentine football.”
How Boca Juniors fans reacted to the bus attack that caused the 2nd leg of the Copa Libertadores final against River Plate to be postponed pic.twitter.com/dPyYZDKCQD
— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) November 26, 2018
Miami is certainly a shorter trip than Genoa, and it is reported city officials would be happy to stage the match at the massive Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
Interest in football is growing in the city: Inter Miami, the franchise backed by David Beckham, are due to start life in MLS in 2020, and there is likely to be great interest in a Superclasico nearby among the Hispanic and South American population.
The trouble is, the Dolphins are playing on December 9 against the New England Patriots. As with Genoa, trying to manage two such fixtures over the same weekend could be hugely problematic.
The UAE might sound a strange choice at first, but it actually appears to be one of the most sensible.
Although travelling such distance sounds unappealing, the winner of the final would be heading to the Gulf state later anyway for the Club World Cup, which starts in Al Ain on December 12.
Either of the Club World Cup venues, Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium or Zayed Sports City Stadium, would be more than adequate for the Libertadores showdown. The winter climate would also be accommodating, and the country itself would jump at the chance to increase their standing on football’s global stage by hosting such an event in efficient fashion.
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