As all the stops were being pulled out to fly Boca Juniors and River Plate from Buenos Aires to Madrid for Sunday’s Copa Libertadores final, the winners of the women’s competition were having an altogether different travel experience.
Players of Colombian side Atletico Huila Femenina, flying home from Brazil after shocking Santos on penalties in the final, endured a seven-hour layover.
To make matters worse, according to captain Yoreli Rincon, the paltry $55,000 prize money will go straight to paying off the debts of the men’s team, who themselves didn’t even qualify for the Copa Libertadores.
Atletico Huila and CONMEBOL, South American football’s governing body, didn’t respond to CNN’s request for clarification on the distribution of the winnings.
“For being crowned champions we won $55,000, money that will never reach us,” Rincon said in a video published on social media.
“That goes to Atletico Huila’s men’s team, which has a different president than we do.
“Yes, we will get recognition from our president Diego Perdomo but it’s out of his pocket, not our prize money for being Copa Libertadores champions. Unfortunately, that is women’s football.”
By way of comparison, either Boca or River will earn $6 million for winning Sunday’s final.
At a press conference in Bogota on Wednesday, Rincon said an agreement had been reached but declined to give any details.
“The nice thing about winning is that it gives you the opportunity to express yourself and that is what we are doing right now,” said Rincon.
“We managed to reach an agreement and it is a reward which we more than deserve.
“When we arrived in Colombia they gave us a solution and that is what we wanted from the start, that this (reward) was ours and it’s normal for a winning team, to enjoy what they were given as a prize.”
The decision to move the second leg from River Plate’s Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires to a neutral venue came after the initial match was called off due to River fans attacking the Boca Juniors team bus.
Two Boca players, captain Pablo Pérez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, were treated in hospital for eye injuries and the clash was called off indefinitely.
Various venues in the Middle East and Europe were discussed, before CONMEBOL plumped on Real Madrid’s Bernabeu.
It’s a decision that hasn’t gone down well with fans or players. Carlos Tevez, a Boca Juniors stalwart, believes the situation is “embarrassing for the people, not so much for the players.”
“They took away our dream of playing the final in our country,” he told reporters in Madrid. “It is important because it’s still a final.
“It is rare because of where it will be played, but it is still a Copa Libertadores final.”
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River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani, who played in goal for Argentina at the World Cup, believes their fans “deserved” to see the second leg played at home, despite their violence causing the move.
Los Millonarios initially refused to play the rescheduled final – currently at 2-2 after the first leg – in Madrid, but eventually succumbed to CONMEBOL’s request.
“We would have liked to play as locals in River’s stadium with our fans, they deserved it,” Armani said.
“But the decision is made, so we will do our best, we will try to bring home the title. We deserve it, and the fans and everybody who supports us deserve it.”