International Football – River vs Boca The FIFA president spoke to MARCA
Gianni Infantino has been in Argentina for the G20 summit, but he was also in Buenos Aires the day when the Copa Libertadores final second leg should have been played.
The FIFA president saw the behind-the-scenes drama unfold up close and has spoken about the events of that day.
In an interview with MARCA, he has stated that football cannot be stopped by idiots and that the match between River Plate and Boca Juniors needs to go ahead, even if that’s in Madrid.
LaLiga Santander in Miami and the Copa Libertadores in Madrid. Isn’t this dangerous?
“These are two completely different things. The issue with the Copa Libertadores final is a unique exception. CONMEBOL analysed everything and reached the conclusion that playing it in Madrid was the only solution. You can’t at all compare this with the idea of playing a league match abroad for business reasons.”
Do you like the idea from Javier Tebas?
So you don’t want LaLiga Santander to play matches in Miami?
“No. I want to see MLS matches in the United States, not Spanish league games, while in Spain I want to see Spanish league games and not Premier League games. If we do business like this then where will football stop? Football is strong because it is well organised. There are national associations, continental confederations and then FIFA.”
Even though it wasn’t your decision or responsibility, you gave the green light to the Copa Libertadores final second leg being played at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. What role did Luis Rubiales and Florentino Perez play?
“The two presidents, as football people, immediately put themselves there to help. This is an exceptional situation that requires exceptional measures. Luis Rubiales and Florentino Perez understood the complexity of the situation.”
You have called the issues around the Copa Libertadores final a total disaster, but many Argentines believe that you gave the order that it should be played no matter what.
“No, no. The president of FIFA can’t take that decision or put on pressure in this sense because it’s a CONMEBOL decision. But, of course, the FIFA president was there at the Estadio Monumental and I have some experience in the organising of tournaments. I organised I don’t know how many Champions Leagues and European Championships. If I can help then I help and support. I think there’s always a need to play when it’s possible to. The first decision to try to play was the correct one, with the information that there was at that moment.”
Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL, wanted to play the match. Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici and River Plate president Rodolfo D’Onofrio also. Did it seem ok to you?
“Yes, because it’s always better to play the match. There were 60,000 people in the stadium and people across the country and the whole world waiting for the match. And four idiots throwing rocks shouldn’t stop all of that.”
There were more than four idiots…
“Yes. Four, 40, 400 or 4,000. Idiots of all kinds. They can’t stop it all. We try to play if it’s possible to play. I think this was the correct attitude from all of us who were there. Once it was no longer possible, because there were some players who really weren’t well, then it was postponed. When it’s not possible, there’s a need for calm, tranquillity and for temperatures to be brought down.”
There are some people in Argentina who think this will seriously affect the bid of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay for the 2030 World Cup and boost the bid of Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
“Well, I think it’s a little early. The decision about 2030 will be made in four or five years, so there’s enough time to show that something happened and also to say ‘but look what we did after this’.”
Is Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri angry about the game being played in Europe?
“He didn’t say that to me. I think all of us who wanted the game to be played in Buenos Aires are angry. It’s an exceptional situation, but I don’t have all of the details to be able to pass judgement. CONMEBOL have them. The important thing is to move forward and to make this match in Madrid a symbol of change and rebirth.”
How did Angelici and D’Onofrio, the club presidents, go through the strange hours at the Estadio Monumental? Were they in agreement? Calm? Distant?
“I saw them looking very sad about what was happening, but they were very respectful between themselves. I don’t know what happened afterwards, but at that moment I was surprised. I thought one of the two would be angrier. They were two gentlemen.”
D’Onofrio didn’t want to play the game in Madrid, but River Plate decided to in the end. What did you advise him?
“I didn’t advise the River or Boca presidents anything. But I say to them that matches should always always be played on the pitch.”
Wherever that pitch is…
“Wherever that pitch is.”
“Wherever it is. It’s always best because it’s a disaster if the match isn’t played.”