FIFA president denies meddling with River Plate vs. Boca Juniors Copa Libertadores clash
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has denied that he threatened Boca Juniors with sanctions if they did not play the Copa Libertadores final return leg on Saturday despite crowd trouble.
River Plate supremo Rodolfo D'Onofrio claimed there had been pressure all the way from the top of FIFA for the game between River and Boca to be played on Saturday at the Monumental stadium, even with the unrest that left some Boca players injured and ultimately resulted in the postponement of the game.
"I want to clarify, due to false rumours that have circulated, that at no time did I ask for the game to be played," Infantino, who was in Buenos Aires to watch the game, told La Nacion newspaper. "I did not threaten anyone with disciplinary sanctions in the case that the game did not take place. Any decisions regarding the game is taken by CONMEBOL and never by FIFA."
River fans attacked the Boca team bus ahead of Saturday's game, with Boca captain Pablo Perez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo taken to nearby hospitals.
The start of the game was initially delayed by over two hours before it was postponed until Sunday.
"FIFA president [Infantino] said in front of me to [Boca president Daniel] Angelici that the game would be played at 7.15 p.m.," D'Onofrio told local press. "I told Angelici in his ear that he had my solidarity... that River did not want to have any kind of advantage."
However, on Sunday, CONMEBOL decided to again postpone the encounter.
A meeting will take place on Tuesday at its headquarters near Asuncion, Paraguay, to determine the date and venue of the return leg.
D'Onofrio, meanwhile, has said his team will appeal after Boca Juniors presented a formal request to CONMEBOL for River to be sanctioned. In their request, Boca cited an article in the regulations which could lead to the club being awarded the Copa Libertadores title without the second leg being played.
"There's no chance of that [awarding Boca the Libertadores Cup] happening," D'Onofrio told America TV. "If that occurred, it would be a complete and utter disgrace."
D'Onofrio said he was surprised and disappointed, claiming he and the Boca president had reached a gentleman's agreement to reschedule Saturday's game so that Boca would not have to play at a disadvantage due to players being hurt during the crowd trouble.
"This [asking for the win to be awarded] would be one of the biggest betrayals a person from Boca could do," he said. "How would you feel if you had reached an agreement [with Boca] and all of a sudden there is a request made by them asking for the game to be awarded to them.
"The path they [Boca] have taken is not the correct one. CONMEBOL will decide but it's logical that the game is played at River and with fans provided safety is guaranteed."
Former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, now in charge of Palmeiras who lost 4-2 on aggregate to Boca in the semifinal of the competition earlier this month, called for the title to be awarded to Boca.
Boca striker Carlos Tevez hit out at CONMEBOL and said if the same scenario had occurred at their La Bombonera stadium, River would have been awarded the win.
The municipality of Genoa in Italy has offered River and Boca the opportunity to play the game at the city's Marassi stadium.
A letter addressed to the presidents of the two clubs said: "Our city, which historically, culturally and through sport, is close to Buenos Aires, feels a deep-rooted link to your two prestigious clubs founded by our countrymen who emigrated from Italian to Argentina in the early 1900s, and today twinned to our two clubs Genoa and Sampdoria.
"The painful recent events which have hit us, have reawakened a profound sense of community and of rediscovering our roots; therefore, as Sports Chief Executive of the Municipality of Genoa, I am communicating to you that our city would be honoured and makes itself available to host this important and prestigious Cup final and Argentine capital derby.
"We are at your disposal for anything you may need."