Saturday, June 19, 2021

SPORTS | 09-11-2018 22:20

Libertadores final pits families against each other in huge rivalry

Tensions are running high ahead of this weekend's Boca v River Libertadores clash – even between a husband and wife...

Gonzalo Raffo is a die-hard Boca Juniors fan. His wife, Delfina Foramitti, passionately roots for River Plate.

They watch every game together wearing the colors of the clubs. Sometimes they bet: whoever loses must do all the house chores. The winner gets to relax. They also taunt each other. Sometimes, the trash-talk gets so heated at home that they'll end up in an argument. But the stakes are higher than ever now.

It's the first time that Argentina's two biggest teams will meet in the final of the Copa Libertadores. Like many in the country, the married couple agrees that the final is nothing but historic. But they also fear that these two clubs that divide a nation could also divide their own family.

"This is more intense than the World Cup," Foramitti said, sitting next to her husband on the white couch where they religiously follow the games on TV. "Of course I'm nervous because I'm a huge fan of River, but I'm more worried about him because the dishes will fly in this house (if Boca loses) and I can't take his bad mood."

Raffo chimed in: "As long as Boca wins, nothing's going to happen!" he said, laughing.

The couple felt silent, and then reflected: "It will be a new country the day after," he said, solemnly. "I'd say this could destroy families. Divorce is on the line," she said, half-jokingly.

"Every Boca-River game is important but this is truly the game of the century," said 70-year-old Carlos Zinola, who has owned the Don Carlos restaurant in front of Boca's stadium for nearly 50 years and who has attended countless derbies. "It's the eternal glory for the winner or the clamorous failure for the loser."

Visiting fans will not be allowed at either match because of the fear of violence. It's been that way since 2013 and not even a plea from President Mauricio Macri, a former Boca president, could change it. But that has not kept Macri from giving his views as a Boca fan. He said it will take "20 years" to recover from a defeat, and he even heated up the game when he recently called River coach Marcelo Gallardo by a vulgar term.

The rivalry is everywhere: A couple named their newborn Enzo "River Plate" Bejarano. Cardiologists warned against a game that could be too dangerous for the faint of heart. A man reportedly said he was ready to postpone his marriage because it coincided with the game. Another one prepared for the final by painting his dog in his club's colours.

"This is like having a child - you can never abandon a child," said Matias Chamorro, 33, a hardcore River fan who posed for a picture showing the club tattoo on his right shoulder while he paid for his monthly club fee at the stadium ahead of the game. "You save money to eat, pay for electricity and [natural] gas bills, and you come watch River."

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by LUIS ANDRES HENAO, Associated Press

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