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CONMEBOL forced into late switch for Copa Libertadores final

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) has moved the 2019 Copa Libertadores final from Santiago to Lima, little over a fortnight before the game takes place, due to ongoing civil unrest in the Chilean capital.

Santiago’s Estadio Nacional (pictured) was due to host the final of CONMEBOL’s showpiece club competition on November 23, with the game marking the first edition of a revised hosting strategy for both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

However, protests in Santiago that began over a rise in metro fares a few weeks back have since escalated to see millions march against inequality in what has become the biggest such action seen in Chile since the country’s return to democracy in 1990.

This year’s Copa Libertadores final will see Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A club Flamengo face Argentinian Superliga team River Plate, with CONMEBOL yesterday (Tuesday) staging a meeting with representatives of the two finalists, as well as the Argentinian, Brazilian and Chilean football associations.

While the final will remain on November 23, CONMEBOL said it has decided to move the game due to “new circumstances of force majeure and public order” and “considering the safety of the players, the public and the delegations”. It added in a statement: “The choice of the new scenario is based on the offer of the government of Peru, and on the security guarantees it has given.”

A new venue for the game has not yet been decided, but the most likely destination will reportedly be the 80,000-capacity Estadio Monumental. The late switch of the game comes with many fans having already booked flights and accommodation for the Santiago match.

Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez said those who had bought match tickets would have priority at the new stadium or be reimbursed. “We understand that the most viable option for everyone, and with guarantees from the Peruvian government, is that (the game is played) in Lima,” he added, according to the Reuters news agency.

The news comes as the latest blow to CONMEBOL in its staging of the Copa Libertadores. The last edition of the Copa Libertadores final in its traditional two-legged format saw CONMEBOL forced to find an outside host for its decisive match.

CONMEBOL selected the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home of Spanish LaLiga club Real Madrid, as the new host of the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final. Stadia from across the world were linked to the game after CONMEBOL ruled that it should take place outside Argentina following the fan violence that led to the cancellation of the match at El Monumental, the home of River Plate.

River was due to face off against arch rival Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires after the first leg of South American club football’s biggest game finished 2-2 at Boca’s La Bombonera stadium on November 11. River won the second leg 3-1 in Madrid on December 9 to claim the trophy 5-3 on aggregate.

Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã and Córdoba’s Estadio Mario Kempes will host the finals of the 2020 Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, respectively, after the hosting rights were awarded by CONMEBOL last month.

CONMEBOL decided in February 2018 that the finals would change to a single-game format from the 2019 season – a switch that the body said would be more lucrative for the teams involved as the governing body mirrors the strategy used by UEFA for its Champions League and Europa League competitions.