The CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores is known for wild and crazy nights and last night's round of 16 clash between Atletico Mineiro of Brazil and Boca Juniors of Argentina was a night to remember for all the wrong reasons. A dubious VAR call and on field fights that ended with an entire team in a local police precinct is just another black eye for the continent's premier club competition.
The game itself was a hard fought 0-0 match where it appeared that Boca Juniors had taken a second half lead until the referee disallowed the go-ahead goal after VAR review. Atletico Mineiro would eventually go on to the quarterfinals after winning 3-1 on penalty kicks. The Boca Juniors players felt cheated since in the first leg a goal was also called back after a long VAR review.
When the final whistle blew, that was when all hell broke loose, Boca players began to clash with the Atletico Mineiro players, the altercations continued to the dressing area where it is apparent that Boca Junior players tried to get into the home side's locker room to continue the fighting. The end result was Brazilian police having to use pepper spray on Boca Junior players and staff, and the entire delegation having to spend the night in a local precinct.
Boca Juniors players pepper sprayed by Brazilian police following Copa Libertadores game
The Brazilian police was forced to use pepper spray as a result of the brawls within the tunnels of the Mineirão stadium. Boca players were trying to get into the Atletico Mineiro locker room, as to which players from Atletico Mineiro began to throw water bottles and fight back, while the police tried to establish order.
Following the incident, which lasted several hours, the entire Boca Juniors delegation spent the night at a local precinct testifying to the events that happened. The players and executives were forced to sleep on the team’s rented bus for eight hours. The exact time Boca Juniors will be allowed to leave the country is still up in the air.
Juan Roman Riquelme, Boca Juniors head of soccer and club legend stated, “Of course the players were going to defend themselves if they had pepper spray thrown on their faces." Boca Juniors midfielder Diego Gonzalez also stated, "Without a doubt, everyone can see that. We scored a good goal, and the fact is that we deserved to win the first game as well.”
The video evidence of the incidents is very damaging for both sides, who will surely receive sanctions from CONMEBOL, but various Boca Juniors players were seen throwing metal bars, former Argentine national team player Marcos Rojo grabbed hold of a fire extinguisher and tried to use it on police. Carlos Pavon of Los Angeles Galaxy fame can also be seen throwing objects at police and Atletico Mineiro staff.
It marks another incident in a long line of incidents involving Argentine teams in Brazil, in 2012 Tigre of Argentina, a small club playing in an international final against Sao Paulo also had issues with police, and as a result did not go out to play the second half of their cup final match. The match was forfeited, and Sao Paulo was declared winner.