Madrid, Dec 8 (IANS) Sunday sees the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Argentinean sides River Plate and Boca Juniors in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium: a game which has attracted worldwide attention given the dramatic circumstances surrounding it.
Such is the global interest in the match that the press box in the Bernabeu has had to be expanded to allow space for all the accredited journalists, reports Xinhua.
The game was moved from Argentina after violent scenes around River Plate’s El Monumental stadium saw the second leg postponed on November 25th after the Boca team bus was attacked by stones and other missiles by River fans.
Both sides had previously agreed that only home supporters would be allowed to attend the two-legged final, in a bid to reduce the risk of violence between rival fans. However, with both sets of supporters travelling to Madrid, where they will be joined by thousands of Argentines already living in Spain, Sunday’s game is surrounded by extraordinary security measures.
Both sets of fans will be separated for the duration of the day, with Fanzones for each set of supporters on either side of the ground.
Around 4,000 police, 2,000 of whom are members of the Anti-Disturbance branch of the Spanish national police, will be on duty, more than for a match between Real Madrid and Barcelona or a Madrid derby between Real and city rivals Atletico.
These security forces will be backed up by emergency services such as the fire brigade, ambulances and civil protection units.
Fans with tickets have also been issued with wrist bands and will have to pass through three separate security cordons before gaining access to the Bernabeu, while journalists have been advised to pick up their accreditation the day before, as there will be no way to access the stadium without a wristband on Sunday.
There are also plans to ensure supporters remain separate after the game, as one group of fans will be celebrating while the other laments their loss.
If Boca win the title, they will celebrate in the Plaza de Cibeles, while River Plate fans would make their victorious way to the Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid.
Spanish police, who are being helped by their Argentinean counterparts, are also on duty at Madrid’s Barajas Airport aiming to prevent known hooligans from the Barras Bravas gang from attending the game.
One notorious Boca “Barra Brava” was identified and immediately deported on Friday morning. Meanwhile, there are also worries that Spanish fans may also get involved in any violence, with Boca having a close relationship with Real Madrid’s “Ultra Sur” supporters, while River Plate’s radicals are close to Rayo Vallecano’s “Bukaneros” ultra group.
In sporting terms, the final is finely balanced after a 2-2 first leg draw in Boca’s La Bombonera stadium. This makes River Plate slight favourites for the title, but given the events of the past fortnight, almost anything can be expected in Madrid on Sunday.