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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UAE ready to step in and host second leg of Copa Libertadores final ahead of Fifa Club World Cup

Match between Buenos Aires rivals has been twice postponed because of fan violence

From left: Craig Henderson, Nicolas Burdisso, Mohammed Al Qubaisi, Hernan Crespo and Ismail Ahmed pose with the Fifa Club World Cup at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Satish Kumar for The National
From left: Craig Henderson, Nicolas Burdisso, Mohammed Al Qubaisi, Hernan Crespo and Ismail Ahmed pose with the Fifa Club World Cup at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Satish Kumar for The National

The UAE is ready to step in and host the twice-postponed second leg of the Copa Libertadores final ahead of next month's Fifa Club World Cup, the Local Organising Committee has said.

Conmebol, the South American football confederation, announced that the return leg between River Plate and Boca Juniors will now take place on "December 8 or 9 outside Argentina" at an as yet undecided venue following a meeting with presidents of both clubs in Asuncion, Paraguay on Tuesday.

Six of the seven spots for the Club World Cup have been filled with the winners of Copa set to advance to the tournament to be held in Abu Dhabi from December 12-22. The first leg at Boca's Bombonera stadium ended 2-2.

“We would have been very glad to host it as it makes more sense for all those who are concerned," said Mohammed Al Qubaisi, a member of the LOC.

"We have the facilities and everything ready for to host the Club World Cup. We can make the arrangements [for the Copa Libertadores] in no time, but it isn’t us for us to decide.”

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Read more:

Italian city of Genoa offers to host twice postponed Libertadores Cup final

Copa Libertadores final postponed again following bus attack

In pictures: Copa Libertadores final postponed after 'shameful' attack on Boca Juniors bus

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The second leg had to be postponed after Boca players suffered cuts from broken glass and from smoke inhalation when their bus was attacked by River fans on the way to the Monumental Stadium in the Argentine capital on Saturday.

The kick off was initially delayed before the game was postponed from Saturday to Sunday. On Sunday, it was postponed again, hours before kick off, after Boca said they were not in a fit state to play.

At a media day in Al Ain to promote the upcoming Club World Cup on Wednesday, Hernan Crespo, the former Argentina striker, said the violent scenes that could yet see River Plate disqualified left him feeling "disappointed and "sad".

“We see football as happiness, passion, entertainment and local rivalries, and definitely not violence,” said Crespo, who won the 1996 Copa with River Plate.

“I would like to say as a player I’m very disappointed with that. I would say we in Argentina have missed out on a huge opportunity to host a good final."

Genoa has offered to stage the match, citing the strong connections between the two clubs and the Italian city, while the group that runs the Atletico Mineiro stadium in Brazilian city Belo Horizonte has also offered to host.

“It is still not clear where the finals will be held and one of the names doing the rounds is Miami," said Crespo, who also represented Parma, Lazio and both Milan clubs in a distinguished playing career. "The committee has to decide what they plan to do but whatever they would will be in the interest of the game.

“For me it a sad to see such a thing has happened. As players what we are looking at is to go out there and express ourselves.”

Former Argentina internationals Nicolas Burdisso and Hernan Crespo at the media day at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Satish Kumar for The National
Former Argentina internationals Nicolas Burdisso and Hernan Crespo at the media day at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Satish Kumar for The National

Nicolas Burdisso, a former international teammate of Crespo's who played with Boca from 1999-2004, said that the delay in playing the second leg was not ideal preparation for the end-of-year Club World Cup.

“The players and as a team, I don’t think it will have a big impact but it’s not the best mindset for them to come from a situation like what we saw,” he said.

As UAE champions Al Ain will be the host representative and face Oceania champions Team Wellington in the opening match for a place in the quarter-finals.

Defender Ismail Ahmed said everyone connected with Al Ain is "waiting for this moment to play in our first Club World Cup and at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium.

“It’s something very special for us as players. Our objective is to win the first game and then we’ll take it from there."