Experiencing one of the most tense moments since he came to the presidency of River Plate, Rodolfo D’Onofrio (Buenos Aires, 04/15/1947) has received hundreds of death threats.
Disappointed with the image of Argentina, he hopes that these days mark a before and after in Argentine football and its society.
He spoke to MARCA in the hours leading up to the grand final, confident that there will be no violence.
What are your hopes for the final?
“You have to turn the page after everything that has happened. We are already in Madrid and we are trying to concentrate on the match. We want it to be a party atmosphere and understand that it is a game, it’s not about the death of anyone. Both teams are representations of what is the Argentine’s passion for football. I hope you see a real show and not what’s happened over the last days.”
What is River Plate?
“River are one of the two largest football clubs in Argentina and goes beyond the city of Buenos Aires. We are nationally supported because throughout the country we find fans. It goes beyond football, because in our club we practice more than 50 sports: hockey, gymnastics, skating, swimming, etc. We have daycare, elementary school, high school, etc. There are 1300 students and we are also the first football club to have a university. We take care of the education of the boys. River is something very big.”
Are these students critical of what has happened in recent weeks? Can you instill good values?
“What River are not is what happened in that corner where they stoned the Boca bus. In Europe I saw similar between the Greeks and the Dutch when projectiles were launched. There are always people who should not be near a stadium. The security of the city and the nation failed, that is something recognised by them, and the security minister of Buenos Aires resigned the next day. They recognised a human failure. You can’t allow certain people to be just a few metres away. There are always some crazy idiots but they’re a prudent distance away so it doesn’t cause any accidents.
“River are not responsible for what happened. Those responsible were whistled by the crowd at the Estadio Monumental in the next match. The perpetrators were told by thousands of our fans to leave and not come back. For twelve days no one was identified who did that on the day of the final. They found one person who has no criminal background, and according to the judges does not belong to any gang.”
Does the club have the competence to deny entry to the violent supporters, even if they have no background?
“No, in Argentina you can’t do that because of discrimination, but I can demand that the justice oppose that right of admission. Then we take it to Assembly, but we can’t do it without a previous accomplished fact.”
And you have the ability to put an end to the scourge of River’s violent element?
“I have had a very bad time. When I suggest that I want to rid the club of these people, they act against me. I’ve received death threats and so have my family. I could show you my cell phone, and although I don’t give it importance, these last few days I will have received some 200-300 threats from Boca fans. Someone facilitated my whatsapp so I’m going to bring those who own the phone numbers to justice.
“But it is a minimal proportion of violent people. I am happy to come to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, as River have a history with Real Madrid thanks to Alfredo Di Stefano, and now Santiago Solari. I also have a very good relationship with Cerezo, with Gil and Simeone, because all of their children did their youth apprenticeships at River…”
Do you think all this will work out to be something positive?
“This Thursday in the Congress, a law was projected against that and the House is approving very strong sanctions for those who commit those acts. I want this to be an example for Argentine football, so that there is a before and after. As England did with the hooligans, in Spain with the ultras… the hardest law must be applied. I hope to see improvement on this.
“It’s a great shame that the most important match in Argentina has to be played in another country. I also hold the AFA responsible because those who manage it would have had to talk with the institutions. You don’t have to gather an army to be able to play football, but intelligence.”
Were Real Madrid’s headquarters your favourite option of all those that came to mind?
“We didn’t choose it, it was CONMEBOL but when we were told it wasn’t going to be in South America, we saw it as an ideal place. Argentines feel Spain is our home, we have the same language, customs… I came to Madrid to eat suckling pig, drink wine, good fish … We have a good relationship with Madrid, and we will see what happens with Palacios.”
Have you already negotiated with Real Madrid for the signing of Palacios?
“I wrote to Florentino Perez a few days ago to thank him for having us at the Bernabeu. We are not currently talking about Palacios. but about twenty days ago Butragueno spoke to Enzo Francescoli about the player, but with a view to continuing negotiations later.”
Do you feel sad losing a player like him?
“The economic differences between Real Madrid and River are very large. It’s very difficult to retain a player, but history tells us that the player sees a future opportunity and we can’t cut his career. The club can’t be closed and must open themselves up to negotiation. That a player from River goes to Madrid is also prestigious for River.
Is Palacios ready to play at Real Madrid?
“He’s at a great level, but I think it would be good to play for one more year in Argentina. However, that is not my decision. We will negotiate, Madrid know that. He is very young but he is very serious, and seems older than he is. A very complete player. If they really love him, the move would be ideal for both the player and Real Madrid.”
Tell me about the football that you expect to see at the Bernabeu.
“It’s a very even match, both want to win. Boca have good and experienced players but I trust River a lot, they know how to play finals, have done it lately and with a coach who is a leader. He knows how to plan matches very well. We do have a sporting disadvantage by not being able to play this final at home though. Having your supporters behind you raises performance levels by 20-25 percent, say doctors and professionals. But, it has already happened and we’re not here to shed tears but to win the match.
With all these ingredients, is it the most important game in River’s history?
“No, it’s not. In March we played a final between River and Boca in Mendoza. River won, we celebrated, but everyone went his way and now… there is no life or death match. The most important thing to have in life is to grow your values.”
Will Sunday ‘s game not be a washing of Argentina’s dirty linen in public?
“It’s a football game, and everything will be solved. Argentina have many needs. Many children don’t go to school, more than 30 percent are in poverty, and society must recover. The match is a symbol, but not the true reality. Argentina must have a plan for 20-30 years, because they have a debt that has nothing to do with football – and football should not distract us from what else is needed.”
Do you have any superstitions to bring luck?
“We all have some that gives us peace of mind and confidence. I’ll wear the usual red sweater.”
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