For the first time in its 58 year history the final would be contested by River Plate and Boca Juniors, both of Buenos Aires and with a long history of sometimes bitter rivalry.
It could be compared to the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic in the bad old days. (As an aside, you will notice the two Argentine teams have English names, Boca is the name of the port district of Buenos Aires, but that is another story.)
The final is a two leg affair and the first leg in Boca's La Bombonera stadium finished in a 2-2 draw. The second leg was due to be played in River's Estadio Monumental on 24th November. But.... as the Boca team bus was nearing the stadium it was attacked by the River Plate hooligans (all clubs suffer from a lunatic fringe among the fans unfortunately).
The bus was badly damaged and one or two players had to be taken to hospital. Not a good advert for the game or for football. The game was postponed postponed until the following day but Boca objected saying that some of their players would need more time to recover so it was postponed again. That's the background story and so far, so good or bad depending on how you see it.
There followed much consultation among the football authorities and then Conmebol, the South American football federation said that for security reasons the game would be played in another country. At first it was thought that one of the other members of the federation would host the game with Paraguay and Brasil rumoured to be favourites. Then there were tales of it moving to Miami but it was Qatar who made a firm offer of $13 million to stage the game. That was unacceptable as Qatar is the main sponsor of Boca; they have Qatar on their shirts. Finally it was decided to hold the second leg in Spain in Real Madrid's Estadio Bernabeu to be played on 9th December. Details of ticket allocations were even announced and much publicity ensued.
But the River Plate chairman lodged an official complaint in writing. (1) Reading the letter I was highly amused by paragraph 'f' in which the River Presidente suggested that the World leaders gathered in Argentina for the G20 summit should be invited to the game. "How could they refuse?" How indeed!
So it is now all in limbo and I have heard that Boca are also refusing to play the game in Madrid although I have yet to see anything in writing from Boca.
However, Alejandro Dominguez the Presidente of Conmebol, said on Saturday that the decision was 'irreversible' and that was that. (2) (Sorry but no English version of the story) As we are all aware, bureaucrats know best! At the time of writing the situation is unresolved so who knows what will happen next because all sides seem to be entrenched in their views. I see a battle of egos looming!
This is just the latest episode in the degeneration of sport into pantomime. It is slowly being turned into a travelling circus with games being played away from traditional venues and in the location of the highest bidder. We have already seen NFL games played at Wembley (and ruining the turf in the process) Spain's La Liga recently signed a deal with an American media company to play 15 games per season in the USA. This is being resisted by Spain's players, the fans and their Football Federation.
The inevitable result of all this greed for money, and that is what is behind this travelling circus mentality, will be to drive the fans away. I used to go to football but now I can't afford it, among other things. Friends of mine in Glasgow no longer go to Ibrox to see Rangers, they prefer to watch their local park team. The last game I went to was Real Madrid v Valencia in January 2004 and it was £480 for six of us; £80 per seat. Greed will kill the game and the P T Barnums of this world will move onto something else from which they can suck out the life and transfer the money into their grubby hands: think of the Yahoos in Gulliver's Travels and you will understand.
At least Vince McMahon is honest about his professional wrestling business, the WWE; he calls it Sports Entertainment!
Just out of curiosity I clicked on the Argentina edition of the Spanish sports paper Marca and there was an interview with the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino. It looks like the game will go ahead in Madrid after all. It was Florentino Perez and the Spanish FA's Rubiales who did all the money grubbing and dealing and it looks as though the Boca and River presidents are now agreed on playing in Madrid. Corruption and brown envelopes? But there was something else which might have persuaded them: the Conmebol president described the Libertadores as 'real football' but the champions league was PlayStation football! (Domínguez dice que la Libertadores es el fútbol de verdad y la Champions el fútbol de PlayStation.)
Are they going to try to put on a display showing how great their football can be? You never know. I was invited to one Libertadores game in Santiago to see ColoColo play Independiente of Argentina and it was an excellent game of football. (2-0 in favour of ColoColo) one of the others invited was actually a supporter of Independiente but we were in the posh seats as guests so he behaved himself :)
And just to show how interesting Argentine football can be -
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