Chile crisis forces Copa final switch to Lima

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Women dressed in black and wearing eye patches raise their fists to a line of police as they take part in the so-called 'Mourning March' in Santiago on Nov 1, 2019. AFP

South America’s football authority said on Tuesday that violent protests in Chile had forced it to switch the venue for this month’s Copa Libertadores final from Santiago to Lima.

The final between reigning champions River Plate of Argentina and Brazil’s Flamengo will go ahead on the original date of November 23.

The decision was motivated by “new circumstances of force majeure and public order,” and came after “considering the safety of the players, the public and the delegations,” the soccer body Conmebol said after meeting in Asuncion.

“The choice is based on the offer of the government of Peru, and on the security guarantees it has given,” a statement said.

It is the second year in succession the final has been moved. The second-leg of last year’s all-Argentine clash between River Plate and Boca Juniors had to be switched to Madrid after fan violence in Buenos Aires.

Tuesday’s decision was announced after a lengthy meeting involving the chiefs of the Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean associations as well as River Plate’s Rodolfo D’Onofrio and Flamengo’s Rodolfo Landim.

“Lima was the most viable option,” Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez told reporters. “There was a consensus. It wasn’t quick.”

More than two weeks of violent protests in Chile have left 20 people dead and forced the government to cancel international economic and climate summits set for November and December. A UN human rights mission is investigating allegations of police brutality.

Conmebol’s decision followed an announcement by Chile’s football federation earlier on Tuesday that it had called off a November 15 friendly in Santiago with Bolivia.

A decision has yet to be made between the two venues available in Lima, the 48,000-capacity National Stadium, or the Monumental stadium, which can accommodate 80,000 fans.

The Lima final will be the first in the competition’s history to be decided in a single-game format.

The last two-legged final in 2018 ended in controversy when the second leg between the bitter Buenos Aires rivals River and Boca was relocated 10,000km (6,200 miles) to the Spanish capital.

The second leg, originally scheduled for Racing’s Monumental stadium, was twice postponed after several Boca players suffered cuts from broken glass and tear gas inhalation when their team bus came under attack from home fans on the way to the ground on the initial fixture date.