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South American leadership fails players, fans

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South America’s soccer leaders have thrown in the towel. They are incapable of staging the biggest annual game on their own continent.

A confederation of 10 nations can’t find anywhere safe enough for River Plate and Boca Juniors to complete their Copa Libertadores final after proving incapable of securing the streets for the abandoned second leg in Buenos Aires.

The tournament named after the “liberators” of South America from Spanish rule is now reliant on the old colonial conqueror. Argentine fans will have to make a costly 24-hour round trip to Madrid next weekend.

“They are teams from a country and a part of the world which is obviously is very closely tied to Spain,” Spanish Football Association President Luis Rubiales said Friday. “So we are really pleased.”

But it’s humiliating for Alejandro Dominguez, president of the South American soccer body CONMEBOL, that “his final to end all finals” will be played so far away.

With the SuperClasico final enjoying unprecedented global hype, CONMEBOL reveled in stoking the already fierce rivalry between the Argentine teams but proved far from competent in responding to the dangerous upshot last Saturday.

For the mayhem on the streets at the second leg, the city’s security minister accepted fault by resigning. But even after River fans attacked the bus carrying Boca players into the second leg at the Monumental de Nunez stadium, CONMEBOL failed in its duty to the players.

The soccer body’s concern seemed to be ensuring a game was played and its trophy handed out. It was obvious the game should have been abandoned immediately, when the extent of the violence became apparent.

Rocks, bottles and wood had just been hurled at the Boca bus. Did CONMEBOL really think players were in a fit state to take to the field? Glass on the bus windows shattered around them. They might be hardened athletes, but they were clearly in shock. Boca captain Pablo Perez was also injured in one eye. Teammates were visibly affected by tear gas and pepper spray fired by police in an attempt to disperse River fans.

But CONMEBOL still thought the final, locked at 2-2, could go ahead. The decision on a postponement kept being put back on Saturday, and everyone was even brought back to try again within 24 hours.

Dominguez prevaricated rather than showing the leadership required in an organization still on a mission to regain its credibility after corruption scandals.

River coach Marcelo Gallardo flouted a ban from carrying out his duties at the semifinal second leg against Brazil’s Gremio by appearing in the dressing room. River midfielder Bruno Zuculini played in the round of 16 despite a suspension.

But River remained in the competition despite the transgressions, setting the tone for the bungled management of the final.

Dominguez’s command is now cast in an even harsher spotlight.

Ahead of the game, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino in town, Dominguez seemed more preoccupied trying to preen on the world stage by reshaping the global game rather than focusing on matters closer to home. The Paraguayan went public in asking for the World Cup to be played every two years. The Copa Libertadores chaos showed just why Dominguez might prefer FIFA to be organizing more events rather than his own staff.

And after floating a proposal that will rile European soccer leaders at UEFA, Dominguez has now been bailed out by the continent to save his final.

“In Spain we find the necessary tranquility,” Dominguez said. “I don’t think the essence of the Libertadores will be lost because the game will be played in Spain.”

The Spanish federation is now open to accusations of hypocrisy. At just the time Rubiales is blocking a Barcelona league game being transported to Miami in January, La Liga finds the federation has dumped a far bigger fixture on Spanish territory.

La Liga’s court case has surely just been strengthened by Rubiales’ conflicting positions.

What will entice audiences in Spain and beyond next Sunday night: Title-chasing Sevilla at Alaves or the highly charged meeting of Argentine foes at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium?

The Game of the Century will have taken a month to complete. CONMEBOL could be paying the price even longer for its dereliction of management.

The Centenary World Cup could be at stake. Argentina intends to bid with Paraguay and Uruguay for the 2030 tournament while Spain has talked about a joint bid with Morocco and Portugal. Now Spain has been handed a PR coup.

The showpiece club finals for Europe and South America will be played in Madrid at two different stadiums now within six months. Europe has the chance to send the message to the world that it, rather than South America, is a more reliable partner for soccer.

River Plate refuses to travel for Copa Libertadores 2nd leg

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River Plate has announced its refusal to travel to Spain for the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final.

“The Argentine Football Association (AFA) can not and should not allow a handful of violent ones to impede the development of the Superclásico in our country,” said a press release.

River and Boca Juniors were level at 2 after one leg, setting up a monumental home decider, but River fans attacked the Boca team bus, injuring or sickening multiple players via tear gas and broken glass.

That postponed the game a few hours, and then a day, and ultimately the match was rescheduled for Dec. 9 at the Bernabeu in Madrid.

River says the decision to move the match distorts the competition, harms those who bought tickets for the home match, and affects their chances of winning the tie.

Copa Libertadores final postponed at Boca Juniors request

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Boca Juniors have requested that the second leg of the Copa Libertadores Final be postponed again following Saturday’s chaotic day at El Monumental.

UPDATE: Boca’s request has been granted.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, the match was delayed a few hours and eventually postponed to Sunday after River Plate fans attacked the Boca bus with tear gas, smashing windows which lead to a trip to the hospital for captain Pablo Perez.

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Glass was removed from Perez’s eye and face, and Carlos Tevez was among the players reportedly willing to forfeit rather than play on Sunday as several players took ill.

Here’s how Perez described his injury, via BeINSports.com:

“I’m feeling hurt,” he said. “This was supposed to be a party and it seemed more like a war. I’ve got an irked eye. They told me I have some injured spots in my eye. That could be caused by the glass splinters they got out from there.”

Yeah, we guess it could be caused by that!

Boca’s request for further postponement, presumably to a neutral venue, was made to CONMEBOL, noting the hostile atmosphere at the stadium and the potential for more fan violence.

The neutral venue seems remarkably unlikely given the first leg was played at Boca’s home, but the restoration of “equal terms” would make sense. Boca’s players simply are not as healthy as they were before the events.

FIFPro is backing Boca.

The game, tied at 2 after the first leg, is expected to kick off at 3 p.m. ET.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been on the scene for all decisions.

Copa Libertadores second leg rescheduled after chaotic afternoon

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Common sense has prevailed after a chaotic day in Argentina, where the second leg of the Copa Libertadores between longtime rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate has been postponed.

A group of River Plate fans attacked the Boca Juniors team bus en route to the match, and several Boca players needed medical treatment after tear gas invaded the vehicle.

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Boca’s Pablo Perez needed medical treatment after getting glass in his eye, while several others were left sick to their stomach, and the match was initially postponed just a few hours.

Boca star Carlos Tevez admitted he could not believe the team would be forced to play, but planned on taking the field.

Reports claimed FIFA head Gianni Infantini told Boca it would forfeit the match if it did not take the field, but River did not want to play, either.

You can appreciate that the organizers would’ve feared what may happen outside the stadium if the match was suspended, but it also may’ve served to amplify the danger inside the venue as well.

The first leg was also suspended because of poor field conditions following a rain storm, and finished 2-2.

The final has now been set for 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

The entire day has been a black eye for FIFA and CONMEBOL, and every eye will be trained on how both organizations deal with Sunday’s events around and inside the stadium.

FIFA urged to host World Cup every two years

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FIFA have been urged to hold the World Cup every two years instead of every four years.

CONMEBOL, soccer’s governing body of South America, has backed current FIFA president Gianni Infantino and has put forward some suggestions for his leadership moving forward. Reports suggests that Infantino is considering the proposal.

The headline suggestion is that due to the recent success of the UEFA Nations League, South America would love to have more competitive tournaments too.

Alejandro Dominguez, CONMEBOL’s president, has confirmed he is close friends with FIFA’s Infantino and UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin and that his federations wants a World Cup every two years.

“The proposal we have made to FIFA is to play the World Cup every two years and not every four,” Dominguez said. “Instead of having the Nations League in between we can just go ahead every two years and have a World Cup and that is for everyone. It’s for the players because they could play four World Cups if we move to a two-year cycle. If we stay with this format many players will not be able to play more than two. There are many solutions. We could hold the tournament in Europe, South America, North America, Africa and Asia without such a long wait. So we see an opportunity there and there is a proposal put forward to FIFA.”

Would this be possible?

With the success of the UEFA Nations League, it is hard to see UEFA agreeing to this move but the fact that South America would be open to competing in the new European competition is an intriguing option.

The plan to host a World Cup every two years would, in theory, put an end to many of the continental tournaments in world soccer. Surely, AFCON, Gold Cup, European Championships and CONCACAF would be no more and that could be an issue for some of the smaller nations who may see that as their only chance of playing at a major tournament.

Yet with an expanded World Cup field of 48 teams to come in 2026 and perhaps for 2022, more of the smaller nations in each federation will get the chance to play on the big stage.

The argument about players only having a few chances to play at a World Cup is a bit of a lazy one, with the current four-year cycle securing the prestige of the tournament worldwide. If that is your main argument, why not hold the World Cup every year?