Out of the tens of thousands of people expected to come to Madrid this weekend for the Copa Libertadores final, the National Police believes there will be around 500 “particularly violent” soccer fans.
In a controversial decision, the second leg of the final of the hugely popular South American competition has been moved to Spain after the original November 24 match in Buenos Aires was cancelled following an attack on the bus carrying one of the teams.
Although both teams have openly criticized South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL’s decision to take the match out of Argentina, River Plate will face Boca Juniors in Madrid on Sunday.
Nearly 4,000 law enforcement officers will be on duty around Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the Spanish capital to avoid similar incidents to those seen in Buenos Aires, said the government’s Madrid delegate, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes.
On November 25, Buenos Aires riot police were called in after River supporters began throwing stones and bottles at the bus carrying Boca players. Pepper spray used to control the crowds ended up affecting members of the soccer team. The match was rescheduled but again had to be suspended after fans descended into violence.
Spanish and Argentine police will work “closely” together to keep tabs on 500 individuals with criminal records who are traveling to Madrid for the match, the government official said on SER radio station.
Spanish authorities are dispatching over 2,000 members of the National Police to the stadium area, while 800 Civil Guards will keep watch over Madrid-Barajas airport. Municipal police officers will also be on duty, and the Real Madrid club will have 1,700 security guards inside the stadium.
The stadium will open its doors at 5.30pm, three hours before the start of the game, which is expected to draw around 25,000 fans per team. Boca and River fans will be seated at opposite ends of the venue.
The buses bringing in the players will be escorted by the municipal police, and traffic cuts are planned on Paseo de la Castellana.
On Thursday, Spanish authorities put Maximiliano Mazzaro, one of the leaders of a hooligan group that follows Boca, on a flight back to Argentina shortly after he landed at Madrid’s Barajas airport. Mazzaro was described by the Spanish government delegate as “one of the most dangerous barras bravas around.”
Rodríguez Uribes, the government delegate, noted that hosting the match will cost €650,000 in national police expenses alone. Added to this are extra hours paid to municipal police officers, cleaning personnel and Real Madrid security workers.
This official added that the game is expected to bring the city around €42 million in revenue.
“This is a magnificent event and it is a privilege to have it held in Madrid and in Spain,” he said. “All that is left is to hope that it will take place uneventfully and serenely, without any incidents.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who offered to host the match following the incidents in Buenos Aires, will attend the final. Rumors that Argentina president Mauricio Macri may travel to Madrid for the game are still unconfirmed.
English version by Susana Urra.