River-Boca: a game 10,000km from 'home'

Maybe it coincides with reading Sergio del Molino's latest book, ‘Lugares fuera de sitio’ (Out of place locations) that inspired me with today's column with a football match taking place 10,000 kilometres from where it should be staged. Cesar Luis Menotti echoed what is felt by many Argentinians when he stated that staging the game in Madrid is a communal failure. He states that he is accustomed to incidents such as the stoning of the Boca team bus and perhaps it's the time to stop being so... He is also spot on when he laments a failure from the River and Boca team captains, trainers and CONMEBOL officials to issue a joint statement calling for common sense to prevail ahead of the second leg in Buenos Aires, something which sadly failed to materialise. River wanted to the game to go ahead while Boca wanted to be awarded a walk.over.

Boca Juniors fans

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Soccer Football - River Plate fans ahead of the Copa Libertadores match between River Plate and Boca Juniors - Puerta del Sol Square, Madrid, Spain - December 8, 2018 River Plate fans ahead of the match

Second leg

So the game now goes ahead in Madrid and by and large it has been warmly welcomed in the Spanish capital. There has always been a sense of admiration when watching games between the big two from Buenos Aires and what has always been the original "El Clásico", before someone decided that, given it's global audience this tag should apply to games involving Madrid and Barça. River-Boca is now the Superclásico. The first leg ended 2-2 and as there is no away goals rule in the Libertadores final were are left with a delightfully poised tie. River Plate are, in theory the home side today but won't be able to count on more fans or home advantage after the now well documented stoning of the Boca bus coupled with a poor organising from the local city authorities in the Argentine capital.

Bucket list

For many Madrid residents this is a chance to tick off a Boca-River game from the bucket list without catching a flight. Both teams come into the match with their traditional hallmarks, River the better footballing side with Boca employing their "never say die" mentality which has seen them crowned Super Liga Argentina champions for the past two seasons. This is also a game where the fear of defeat overshadows the desire to win which adds to the tension with the opportunity to humiliate the beaten side something that will be enjoyed by the victorious supporters for years to come. The central Sol square awaits River Plate fans should Gallardo's side lift the trophy and the large Colón square will be a sea of yellow and blue should Boca win out. The neutrals are hoping for a decent game placed in a sporting and peaceful backdrop.