Late November 2018. The second leg of the finals of the Copa Libertadores 2019
between Boca Juniors and River Plate ends up on the headlines of European newspapers, usually not very focused on Central and South American football. The match however ends up on the headlines for the wrong reasons: not only clashes between fans, but also public order situations.
The Argentine and former icon of AC Fiorentina Gabriel Omar Batistuta tweeted: Otra oportunidad más perdida delante del mundo entero que nos observa, vergonzoso, lamentable. According to the former captain, that final was a missed opportunity in front of the world, lost in a bad way. A real pity because "la Copa" is a fascinating competition with a fascinating history, followed as much as, if not even more than, the UEFA Champions League.
The history of the Copa Libertadores
Originally established in 1960 as the Copa de Campeones de América, the Copa America initially was similar to the Champions' Cup, where only clubs that classified first in their national championship would qualify. Participation was later extended to second-placed teams and the Cup also changed its name, becoming the Copa Libertadores from América to honour the heroes of the South American independence.
would open up an even more exciting challenge as the winning team would play against the first placed club from the European Champions' Cup. Today things are slightly different and the Intercontinental Cup is now the FIFA Club World Cup,
a worldwide competition based on the principle of selecting the best national teams to play against each other. While originally the teams would be from the CONMEBOL - South American Confederation of Football
only, now they can be from all over the world, as established by FIFA
Who participates and how does the Copa Libertadores 2019 take place?
The 2019 edition of Copa Libertadores registered 47 teams from ten national federations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In order to skim the participating formations, three phases are initially planned in direct confrontation before a group stage. More than tropical, the Libertadores regulation is Byzantine: full of rules to determine the participating teams, rather far from those to which we are so accustomed to in Europe. It suffice to say that the mid-range teams of the South American federation participate in this very first phase of the tournament.
The fans cuddle their "obsesion", as the Copa Libertadores is called.