The experiment that killed the essence of the Copa Libertadores falters: Conmebol prepares adjustments to save the unique final

This Saturday, in Guayaquil, a match will be played that has all the ingredients to be considered unmissable, especially for local fans. Flamengo and Athletico Paranaense, two of the main Brazilian teams, will meet at the Isidro Romero stadium, in search of the Copa Libertadores, the most important trophy in the continent at club level. On the field of the Isidro Romero stadium there will be stars by the piece. From Brazilian national teams to figures from the Red, such as Arturo vidal Y Erick Thumb, if Dorival Júnior, the coach of the red and black team is encouraged to include them. A high-level show that is taken for granted.

However, the local fans do not even flinch. Until the last report, yesterday, barely 11,000 tickets had been sold. Considering that the venue’s capacity is close to 60,000 seats, the risk that the most important game on the agenda of the South American confederation for this season will be played against a pale stage is imminent.. Each of the finalists is entitled to 12,000 seats, but interest has been scant. As a desperate measure, in fact, Conmebol is giving away tickets, whose values ​​fluctuate between US$142 and US$245, to each member of Barcelona, ​​the local club, who purchases a ticket. In Conmebol they affirm, in any case, that 30 thousand locations have been placed. And that an attendance of 40 thousand spectators is projected.

Saturday’s is not the only final on neutral ground that can be played before a small audience. Barely 10,000 spectators attended the Copa Sudamericana, which Independiente del Valle beat Sao Paulo, at the Mario Alberto Kempes stadium in Córdoba..

The star idea of ​​Conmebol, inspired by European definitionswhich are effectively played to a full stadium, clearly missed the essence of the definitions of regional tournaments, where locality is a key factor. There are other elements that make it possible to question the viability of the initiative: the purchasing power of the inhabitants of this side of the world and the vast distances that separate the countries. And one more: the South American public, in general, does not feel the concept of neutrality.

Arturo Vidal, in the semifinal of the Libertadores, between Flamengo and Vélez Sarsfield. (Photo: Reuters)

The indifference of the Ecuadorian public, added to what has already happened in Argentina for the definition of the South American, has Conmebol concerned. In Luque they cling to keep the idea, although they are open to the option of introducing a significant modification, precisely with the intention of having greater certainty regarding having full stands in a game that deserves the most attention.

The main initiative in this sense aims to have several cities prepared to host the definition. How, then, would the place of play be determined? According to the origin of the finalists. Is worth to say, the closest venue to which the fans of both cheerleading squads of the closing match of the tournament can access.

The essence of the Cup is that: play round-trip matches. It has been like this practically throughout the history of the tournament. They want to replicate what is done in the Champions League, but it loses all its nature”, says Rubén Espinoza, champion of America with Colo Colo, in 1991. The former midfielder is even encouraged to provide a variant. “Ideally, this final would have been played in Brazil, in a neutral city. It should be like this: if the finalists are from the same country, it is played there, but in a neutral city”, poses.

There is another factor that the tomecino believes should be protected. “Here you play with height, heat, humidity, factors that in Europe do not count, because they are not seen. And all these factors can be taken advantage of, especially in a definition”, he points.

Athletico Paranaense, in the semifinal against Palmeiras (Photo: AP)

The Single Final of the Copa Libertadores, in fact, started on the wrong foot. The first was going to be played in Chile, in 2019, in a match that would face Flamengo and River Plate. The Brazilians ended up keeping the title, but in Lima. The social outbreak prevented the match from being played in Chile, despite the fact that the National Stadium had undergone modernization works, precisely to leave it in a position to host an international level match. On that occasion, there were even interdicts between the then Minister of Sports, Cecilia Pérez, and the president of Conmebol, Alejandro Domínguez. The Paraguayan praised Lima’s willingness to host the meeting. “We advanced in 11 days what had cost us more than 11 months“, graphic. And he added: “I think everything was said as if Lima was the city where we should have come from the beginning”.

From La Moneda he received a blow. “When he points out that in 11 months the 11 days in Lima had not been done, what was he referring to? Why didn’t we as a government accept a short law that would exempt Conmebol and its sponsors from taxes? Did you mean that we did not agree to close the stadium two months before and our athletes could not train? Or that we did not agree to finance a 40 million party in Castillo Hidalgo for the Conmebol managers and their sponsors?Perez responded.

That time, finally, there was a Chilean on the playing field: the judge Robert Tobar. And the stands of the Lima venue were, indeed, filled with the public.