Argentinian football the loser in Copa Libertadores final, says Boca's Schelotto

Supporters of River Plate sing at Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport ahead of Copa Libertadores final, in Madrid, Spain, on Friday. — Reuters

MADRID — Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto has admitted that no matter who wins the Copa Libertadores in Madrid on Sunday, Argentinian football will have lost to violence.

River Plate and Boca will play the delayed second leg of the final at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium after the original game was postponed last month, following an attack by River fans on the Boca team bus.

CONMEBOL, South America's football federation, decided to rearrange the fixture, controversially moving it from Argentina to Spain amid fears of further fan violence.

"We should have played in our own country but unfortunately that is not possible," Schelotto said on Friday from the Spanish national team's training base.

"Unfortunately, we never learn. It seems we make the same mistakes over and over again, and what is damaged is the image of Argentinian and South American football.

"Today we should be talking about how River and Boca made Argentina proud and instead, we are talking about violence. Again, we have lost to violence."

A traditionally highly-charged derby has been magnified by the fact Boca and River are meeting in the final of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, for the first time.

But two Argentinian teams contesting South America's most prestigious club prize abroad, and in Spain, has been perceived as a great opportunity missed.

CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez has described the situation as an "embarrassment" and a "disgrace", while Schelotto believes it will take time for Argentinian football to recover.

"On its own, Real Madrid's stadium seems excellent to me," Schelotto said. "But we need time, we need matches of this quality played in Argentina or South America and to show that we have matured.

"What happened 15 days ago is regrettable and it has to change because when you can't play a Boca against River match in Argentina, that is worrying."

The first leg at Boca's Bombonera ground finished 2-2 and Schelotto admitted it is inevitable the players will have been affected by the controversy.

"To play this final we had to leave home almost a week ago," Schelotto said. "We played the first game a month ago. It has been intense and the atmosphere doesn't feel normal. It's the same for River, but it has been too much, for the players and coaches."

River President Rodolfo D'Onofrio claimed on Friday that he has received death threats such is the intensity of the rivalry.

"You need to have adequate security," D'Onofrio told El Pais. "If I go out in the street and say I don't want to attend games at our stadium anymore, the River ultras will send death threats to me, my daughter, my wife and all my family.

"It's happening to me now. I have 200 or 250 Boca fans who say they're going to kill me."

Away fans were banned from attending the first leg at the Bombonera and River would have enjoyed the same home advantage at their stadium, El Monumental.

But both sets of supporters have been given an equal allocation of 25,000 tickets each at the Bernabeu. D'Onofrio says River should not have been punished for the behavior of "40 to 50 delinquents".

"River's responsibility is zero," he said. "It was the security system that failed, absolutely and totally." He added: "River are the victims. We are at a disadvantage because we played in Boca's stadium and now Boca are not playing at River's stadium." – AFP