The Copa Libertadores final between Flamengo and River Plate has been moved to Lima in Peru from Santiago due to the continuing unrest in the Chilean capital, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) announced.
The Nov 23 final was due to be held at the National stadium, but Santiago has been beset by violence over the last few weeks as protests that began over a rise in metro fares have amplified and spread.
Representatives from both Copa finalists and the Argentine and Brazilian football associations met at continental governing body CONMEBOL's headquarters for almost five hours before deciding the game will now take place in the Peruvian capital.
”We understand that the most viable option for everyone, and with guarantees from the Peruvian government, is that (the game is played) in Lima,” said Alejandro Dominguez, CONMEBOL's president.
Dominguez said officials had not yet decided which stadium will host the match.
The decision to move the final to Peru comes six days after Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said the country was withdrawing as host of the Nov 16-17 APEC trade summit and the COP25 climate summit scheduled for Dec 2-13.
The move deals another blow to beleaguered CONMEBOL. The organization was last year forced to move the second leg of the Copa final between Argentine rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate to Madrid after River fans attacked the Boca coach as it neared the stadium.
This year’s final is the first to be held at a one-off neutral venue in the tournament’s 60-year history.
Organizers want the Libertadores to more closely resemble the UEFA Champions League, its European equivalent.
However many fans have complained that a one-off final is unfair on a continent the size of South America and robs tens of thousands of fans of the chance to see their team in a final.
Many had already booked flights to the Chilean capital and hotels for the weekend of the match. Match tickets will be changed for Lima, but flight and hotel bookings will the responsibility of the 30.000 fans, 15.000 from each team.
This year’s decider is one of the most eagerly awaited in years, pitting Flamengo, who have reached the final for the first time since 1981, against reigning champions River Plate.
In a separate development, the Chilean FA also decided to cancel the national team's home game against Bolivia on Nov 15. A second match against Peru in Lima will go ahead but will only feature players who play outside Chile.
The local soccer league program was halted last month because of the protests and officials said they do not know when the competition will be completed.