The all-Argentine final of South American football’s biggest club competition has been postponed after the visiting team’s bus was attacked by home fans, marring what was supposed to be a landmark day for football in the country.
Several Boca Juniors players were injured in their bus on Saturday when rocks and pieces of wood thrown by River Plate supporters shattered the windows, as they were heading to the stadium in the capital, Buenos Aires, on Saturday.
The second leg of the Copa Libertadores will now be played on Sunday at 5pm local time (20:00 GMT), South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) President Alejandro Dominguez announced after the violence broke out.
“One team didn’t want to play and the other didn’t want to win under these conditions,” Dominguez told reporters.
“It’s not a war. It’s football,” he added. “We have to consider the technical, the medical and the professionals, and we’ve decided that neither of the teams meet the conditions and we’re in agreement.”
Photos showed Boca captain Pablo Perez with his eye bandaged after being taken to hospital and other players suffered cuts to the face, arms, legs and chest.
Local media reported some players were exposed to tear gas after River Plate fans clashed with the police.
Argentine news website Clarin said six players had vomited in the dressing room.
The decision to reschedule the game was taken more than two hours after the original start time.
Boca players were angry that officials, who had twice rescheduled the kick-off with a capacity 62,000 crowd waiting in the stadium, had even tried to get the game under way.
“We’re in no condition (to play),” Boca’s star forward Carlos Tevez told reporters shortly before the match was postponed. “They are forcing us to play the game.”
The all-Buenos Aires clash, the first time Argentina’s two biggest clubs are meeting for the title, was billed as the greatest final in the competition’s 58-year history.
The first leg at Boca’s ground on November 11 had ended in a 2-2 draw and the second leg was taking place at River’s home in front of their fans.
Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler, reporting from Buenos Aires, said the fans are “angry and frustrated”.
“The words we’re hearing most frequently are embarrassment and shame, that the biggest game in the club’s history has been postponed due to violence and that they were unable to provide the necessary security for the match to go ahead.”
Recurring violence in and around the grounds has blighted Argentine football for years, leading to a ban on away fans.
CONMEBOL initially delayed Saturday’s kick-off for an hour, then postponed it for two hours, 15 minutes to 7:15 pm local time (22:15 GMT), before announcing a Sunday start.
“We didn’t know what was going on, we were just waiting.” Esteban, a River Plate fan, said.
“It’s embarrassing,” he told Al Jazeera. “Embarrassing that we can’t organise events like this in this country.”
Ricardo Pedace, head of the government’s safety agency, told local television they were taking steps to determine whether the final could be played on Sunday.
“I have asked the inspectors to act quickly, to make it possible for the game to be played,” he said.
The first leg of the final played two weeks ago at the Boca Juniors stadium was also postponed for a day due to heavy rain.
Saturday’s trouble comes three years after a Libertadores last-16 tie between the same teams was abandoned at half-time after Boca fans attacked River players with pepper spray in the tunnel.