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  • Shauna Rush


Updated: Jun 2, 2020

This article was originally published on December 12th, 2018.

“One can’t play in these conditions,” Alejandro Dominguez (@agdws), President of the South American Football Confederation, (CONMEBOL) told reporters.

Dominguez's statement coming after several Boca Juniors players were injured, after River Plate fans pelted their coach with missiles as it approached the El Monumental stadium. Forcing the second leg of their Copa Libertadores final to be postponed.

Copa Libertadores

This was the most anticipated game in the 127-year history of Argentine football. Boca Juniors and River Plate facing each other for the first time, in South America's equivalent to the Champions League final.

The Thursday before, 60,000 fans packed into Boca's famous La Bombonera stadium. Creating an atmosphere more visceral than almost any sporting occasion. Simply to watch their team's open training session.

Those in attendance at the open training session were unable to attend Sunday's game. As away supporters have not been allowed at games in Argentina for the last five years, ever since an awful run of football-related deaths led to a ban in 2013.

However, demand for tickets from River Plate fans was predictably high, as was the opportunity that the market provided. One man apparently exchanging his ticket for a job, while there were reports of others being sold for six-figure sums.

The president of River Plate, Rodolfo D'Onofrio (@RodolfoDonofrio), was forced to change his WhatsApp profile picture to one that simply said, "I have no tickets".

However, due to the incident with the Boca Juniors coach, the second leg was postponed.


CONMEBOL's original plan was to play the rearranged game just 24 hours later. However, Boca Juniors made a formal presentation to CONMEBOL to take action and allow those affected by Saturday's incidents to recover further.

"Club Atletico Boca Juniors made a formal presentation to Conmebol on Sunday to request that the final of the Copa Libertadores be played in conditions of equality," said a club statement.

A statement from Conmebol confirmed the match would not take place on the Sunday, adding: "CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez recognized Boca Juniors can't play today."

A week later CONMEBOL announced that the fixture has been moved more than 6,000 miles away. Now being played at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, in the Spanish capital.

River Plate manager Marcelo Gallardo disagreed with the decision to move the game, stating "Someday we are going to rethink what happened and we will remember it as a total disgrace."

"Our preparations have changed. We are going to play 10,000 kilometers away. The Copa Libertadores of America. They've robbed the fans."

Each team was given 25,000 tickets for the game in Madrid. However, they could only sell 5,000 to fans inside Argentina. This was designed to prevent the infamous 'Barra bravas,' the often violent organized fan groups, from traveling to Spain to watch the game.

The city of Madrid deployed 2,000 police officers and 4,000 security staff to ensure the rearranged fixture went ahead without incident.

The legendary romanticized fierce derby became dulled under the Bernabeu lights. Boca and River fans rocked up and down and took it in turns to belt out songs at either end of the ground, but were at times muffled by the murmur of the casual Spanish observers.

“Yo te sigo a todas partes adonde vas,” Boca’s supporters sang. “I will follow you wherever you go!”

Despite their best efforts it felt like a sanitized final. The unfettered raw emotion of South American football was swaddled in European practice and procedure.

On the field the teams were inseparable, forcing the match into extra time tied 1-1, and 3-3 on aggregate. River would go on to win, after Boca were reduced to 10 men, following the dismissal of Wilmar Barrios (@wilmarBarrios8), and then nine, as Fernando Gago (@fernandogagome) suffered a serious injury and could not continue.

Juan Quintero made it 2-1 after 109 minutes, expertly curling the ball from the edge of the box. Boca while still chasing a late equalizer brought goalkeeper Esteban Andrada up the field in the final few minutes. They almost got it, too: Boca hit the post in the dying seconds before River cleared the ball from a corner and Pity Martínez (@pity10martinez) raced away to score their third.


The SuperClásico between the two Buenos Aires clubs, is regarded as one of the most famous derbies in world soccer. The two teams also claim to represent 70% of Argentina's soccer fans.

Dominating the Argentine national championship for the last 80 years. Collected 69 league titles between them. River have won the Argentine top flight 36 times. While Boca has 33 titles to their name.

The two teams have produced some of the world's greatest players, including Diego Maradona. Maradona is far from the most notable name in this rivalry, having only spent a total of three seasons at Boca during his playing career. Other greats to have featured include Enzo Francescoli, the Uruguayan playmaker after whom Zinedine Zidane's son is named, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Daniel Passarella and Ubaldo Fillol for River. Boca has boasted Antonio Rattin, Silvio Marzolini, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and Martín Palermo.

Their rivalry dates back to when the two clubs were situated just a few miles from one another. Starting as a 'turf war,' in the city's La Boca district. Before growing into the battle of who is the biggest club in the country.

A merger between La Rosales and Santa Rosa brought River Plate into existence in 1901. After members of the team had seen British workers leave their duties to play a soccer match, on their lunch break. They decided to name the new club after the boxes they had been working on. Which were inscribed with the words"The River Plate" on the side (the name the English gave to the Río de la Plata).

In 1905, Boca Junior was formed. When a group of Greek and Italian boys joined together in order to create a team. Boca also decided to add the English word 'Junior' to their name to add some glamour.

Despite having played a number of friendlies it was not until August 14, 1913, that their first official meeting took place. River triumphed with a 2-1, as the rivalry was born.

The rivalry got less local, when River left La Boca in search of space for a new stadium, first in the 1920s to the border of Recoleta and Palermo and then still further north to the more affluent neighborhood of Belgran, where the El Monumental. After the move River started to embody the city's upper echelons.


The rivalry was enhanced, when Argentine soccer became professionalize in 1931. Boca going on to win the first league title of the new era. Boca and River would go on to win 13 top flight titles between them in the next two decades.

River would go on to sign Carlos Peucelle from Sportivo Buenos Aires for 10,000 pesos and earn the nickname of 'Los Millonarios' (The Millionaires).

While Boca remained in La Boca and became known as the people's team, with the majority of fans coming from the local Italian immigrant working-class community.

The relationship between the two sets of supporters continued to develop.

Boca fans refer to River supporters as "gallinas" ("chickens") claiming the lack of guts of River players. After River lost 4-2 to Uruguay’s Penarol in the 1966 Libertadores Cup final, after leading 2-0. In their next league match they played at Banfield, whose fans threw a chicken onto the pitch. The nickname was reinforced at the next SuperClásico at El Monumental when the home team lost and the newspaper Cronica ran a headline: “This chicken run is closed for lack of eggs (guts).”

River fans refer to their Boca rivals as "los chanchitos" ("little pigs") because they claim the La Bombonera, smells most of the time. Boca fans are also known as "los bosteros" ("manure collectors"), a reference to the smell of a polluted river in La Boca.

The Puerta 12 Tragedy

On June 23, 1968, in El Monumental, after a match between the two teams, 71 fans were killed in a crush at gate 12, with 150 fans left injured. The disaster was the worst soccer-related incident in the history of Argentine football and the majority of the dead were teenagers and young adults.

There are various claims as to what exactly happened that day. Some claim that the disaster happened after Boca Juniors fans threw burning River flags from the upper tiers of the stadium, causing a stampede of their own fans in the lower tier.

Others claim that it happened after River fans arrived at the Boca section, causing the stampede of the visiting fans. Yet others claim that gate 12 was locked, or would not open at the time and that the fans at the back did not hear the ones at the front telling them to stop coming in.

William Kent, River's former president, claimed that the police were the culprits, as they began repressing Boca fans after they had thrown urine at them from the stands. Some witnesses claim that the turnstiles to the exit were blocked by an iron pole.

After three years of investigation, a government inquiry found no one guilty, much to the disappointment of the families of the victims. Since the tragedy, the gates at El Monumental have been identified by letters instead of numbers.


Hopefully, we will be given another SuperClásico final in the future and one that will be played in the city where it belongs, Buenos Aires

The history and fan's passion proves that the SuperClásico is one of the biggest and best rivalries in the world.


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