Boca Juniors expelled from the Copa Libertadores for pepper spray incident, will appeal

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Argentinian giants Boca Juniors have been expelled from the Copa Libertadores following the incident Thursday when fans sprayed an irritant believed to be pepper spray into the tunnel at halftime of their rivalry matchup with River Plate.

River Plate, owning a 1-0 lead from the first leg, went to La Bombonera for a tense matchups with its biggest rival. Following a scoreless first half, the players were on their way out of the tunnel when they were hit with the pepper spray, which appeared to come from a fan that cut his way into access using a flare.

The match was suspended following a lengthy deliberation from CONMEBOL, and the South American governing body convened to decide how they should proceed with the matchup incomplete. They decided River Plate would go through into the quarterfinals, while Boca Juniors was expelled. They are also required to play four home matches behind closed doors, Boca fans have been banned from four away matches, and the club was fined $200,000.

There was speculation that CONMEBOL may also bar them from the competition next season as well as remove La Bombonera from contention to hold continental matches, but that did not come to fruition.

Four players ended up in the hospital after the incident, and it took hours for the squad to even get off the field let alone leave the stadium.

Boca Juniors confirmed they will appeal the decision. Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici said they “understand a disciplinary sanction fits for the club, but not a sporting” punishment, according to Sunday’s edition of the newspaper Ole. “Games are won on the pitch. Otherwise we are hostages of the violent ones,” Angelici said, referring to fan punishments vs club punishments.