River-Atletico Tucuman clash suspended after hosts refuse to open stadium amid coronavirus outbreak

Saturday’s match was abandoned in farcical circumstances when the visiting team found themselves locked out of the ground

River Plate’s Copa Superliga curtain-raiser against Atletico Tucuman has been suspended after the home club refused to open their stadium for Saturday’s game. 

While sporting activity across the world has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic – including the South American Copa Libertadores tournament – authorities in Argentina decided to proceed with the Copa, which began this weekend one week after Boca Juniors lifted the Superliga title. 

Argentina has to date been affected less severely by the virus than in Europe and the United States and while travel restrictions have been put in place to avoid infected people entering the country and some public events have been cancelled, schools, businesses and the football calendar have so far been exempted from closure.

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Friday’s clashes between Gimnasia and Banfield and Patronato and San Lorenzo proceeded as scheduled, as did Independiente’s clash on Saturday at home to Velez Sarsfield, albeit behind closed doors to avoid further spread of the illness. 

River, however, announced on Friday that they would not be fulfilling their first fixture of the competition and took drastic measures to ensure the game would be suspended. 

Upon arriving at the Monumental on Saturday a delegation carrying Atletico Tucuman’s kit supplies found the stadium locked up, while referee German Delfino was also unable to enter. 

The club’s official Twitter account shared images of its staff outside the stadium, as well as of the squad loitering in their hotel waiting to leave for Nunez.

Superliga authorities were informed of the lockout and subsequently confirmed the match would not go ahead. 

“In light of River Plate’s decision to not open their stadium for the encounter that was due to be played for the first round of the Copa Superliga against Atletico Tucuman, referee German Delfino went to the Monumental facilities alongside the rest of the officiating team and national public notary Marisa Galarza, and noted it was impossible to enter the stadium to carry out their jobs,” the body’s statement read. 

“Alongside them, the Tucuman side’s kitmen, first vice-president Enrique Salvatierra and spokesman Cristobal Godoy were also present. 

“At that time a document was signed notifying the situation and the visiting team was informed there was no need to make their way to the event venue, as the match referee had made note of the general situation. 

“The Buenos Aires City Security authorities also advised the Tucuman delegation it was not necessary to go to the stadium, as the facilities were closed.”

River may now face losing the match as a walkover or further disciplinary actions as a result of their actions, which they attribute to fears that players could further spread coronavirus. 

They did, however, gain an unlikely ally in the shape of Diego Maradona, who was present on Friday to watch his Gimnasia team tie 0-0 with Banfield. 

“I’m with them to the death. Look, I don’t like the Gallinas (chickens) at all, but I’m with them to the death,” the Boca legend told reporters. 

“If the players make a decision, you’ve got to stick with that to the death. To the death.”

Last week River lost out on the Superliga title by a single point to their arch-rivals, drawing 1-1 with Atletico Tucuman while the Xeneize prevailed 1-0 over Diego’s Gimnasia side to snatch the crown.

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