The Eternal Final

Boca Juniors 1-3 River Plate The mayhem of Argentina could not be copied. All the stereotypes of European elite football were reinforced: the match organization, the fan zones, the security operation, the influx of football tourists, the sanitised stadium and the antiseptic atmosphere that accompanies major finals. By Samindra Kunti MADRID – The sobriquet had said it all: the final to end all finals. How then could it end, the longest showpiece 180 minutes in the contemporary history of the club game? Could the final ever match the hype and the passion that surrounded it? Could it produce the unfettered drama it promised? Argentina, South America and a global TV audience demanded the ultimate spectacle. Outside Boca Juniors’ team hotel, the fancy Eurostars Suites Mirasierra in a northern residential area of the Spanish capital, everyone – the gathered Boca Juniors fans, who numbered a few dozen – seemed bewildered, almost apologetic. Had they all been fooled, tricked into believing that South America’s flagship final should be in Madrid? After 28 days – the first leg had been played on Remembrance Day at the famed La Bombonera – the Copa Libertadores final had almost become a chimera. Human emotions had played out: joy, ecstasy, togetherness, hope, violence, defeat, exasperation and resignation. They had all gathered in living rooms to watch the game, and the game that never was. They were exhausted and yet, here, they were, delighted at the chance to witness the final. Mauro Franchini and Marpano Pardo had flown in low-budget from Berlin. The two friends had immediately made their way to the Boca Juniors base. They strolled towards the entrance of the hotel, a high-rise of glass and more glass where Diego Maradona had once slept. Rodrigo Emilio, a ginger twenty-something, smiled and busied other Boca fans with incessant banter. A fortnight ago, he moved to Madrid to pursue a masters in architecture. ...

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