The Argentinian Government has announced that fans will return to a sports stadium for the first time in almost 18 months for the forthcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Argentina and Bolivia.
The national team football match is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires on September 9 at El Monumental, the home of Primera División club River Plate.
At a press conference yesterday (Tuesday), Minister of Tourism and Sports, Matías Lammens, said the game will be used as a “pilot test” with El Monumental to be used at 30% of its around 74,000 capacity.
Lammens said: “It is a first step for the public to return not only to sporting events, but to all mass shows. It is an event that deserves this exception because of what it means and because it allows us to make an evaluation of the protocols to be implemented.”
Lammens said the Argentina-Bolivia game will guide the “gradual” return of the public to other football and sporting events. “The idea is that by the end of September we already have an audience in the stadiums,” he added.
Lammens and the Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, explained that this step has been taken due to the improvement of the epidemiological situation in Argentina.
Vizzotti said: “We are in the 13th consecutive week of decrease in (COVID-19) cases, and in the 11th of decrease in hospitalisations in intensive care and deaths.”
River Plate returned to a revamped El Monumental in February, with the first phase completed of what is intended to be a broader redevelopment project.
In August 2020, the Buenos Aires giant announced plans to utilise the COVID-19 period to revamp its stadium, with the long-term goal of bringing fans closer to the action. River last played at El Monumental for a Copa Libertadores match on March 11, 2020, but will returned for a Primera División game against Rosario Central, albeit behind closed doors.
The club claimed that through the renovations, River’s players will enjoy the best playing field in South America due to the installation of a new pitch with hybrid technology. The irrigation system has also been improved, while the athletics track separating the pitch from the stands has been removed and a new players’ tunnel installed.
Fencing has been removed allowing for a better viewing experience for fans, who will also benefit from a new stadium Wi-Fi system, new toilets and concessions. The club invested ARS200m (£1.5m/€1.75m/$2.05m) in the works, with further development planned.
Image: River Plate