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Colombian fans in Argentina struggle to return amid pandemic

April 15, 2020 GMT
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Fans of Independiente de Medellin soccer club shout to journalists from a hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The fans who traveled to Buenos Aires in March to cheer their team in a Copa Libertadores match, demand their country rescue them. They tried to exit through the Bolivian border but ended at a hotel in the Argentine capital, in a mandatory quarantine amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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Fans of Independiente de Medellin soccer club shout to journalists from a hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The fans who traveled to Buenos Aires in March to cheer their team in a Copa Libertadores match, demand their country rescue them. They tried to exit through the Bolivian border but ended at a hotel in the Argentine capital, in a mandatory quarantine amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The plan of 15 soccer-crazy fans of Colombia’s Independiente Medellín was very simple. They wanted to travel to Buenos Aires to watch their team face Boca Juniors in the historic La Bombonera stadium in a Copa Libertadores group stage match. And they did that.

But then came the new coronavirus pandemic.

One month later, the group of supporters is in isolation in a modest hotel of Argentina’s capital. They say Colombian officials have deserted them.

“We don’t know what will happen to us, we need Colombian authorities to step up and help us return to our country,” said Ángelo Taborda, who speaks on the behalf of the supporters, in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

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The March 10 match ended in a 3-0 Boca win. Only days later the South American tournament was suspended because of the outbreak.

The Colombian fans attempted to return home via Bolivia and Brazil, but when they were about to cross the border with Bolivia, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández closed it. On March 20, he also issued a decree for mandatory isolation.

The supporters were stranded for 15 days in the bordering town of La Quiaca, where Taborda said they were beaten and robbed.

The Colombian fans were then put on a bus and sent back to Buenos Aires. As they were about to arrive in the capital, police stopped them because their vehicle had no authorization to enter.

Since the beginning of the month the fans are in one of the hotels that Buenos Aires city hall is offering for foreigners and Argentinians coming from abroad to quarantine.

All supporters were tested negative for COVID-19, local authorities said. The fans spend their days by the hotel’s windows, showing off their tattoos, waving shirts of their club and of Colombia’s national team. Many of their neighbors do not enjoy their noise.

Their quarantine ends in two days. Colombia’s consulate in Buenos Aires is expected to pay the bill.

“They said they will have us here until tomorrow, and we don’t know what will happen to us then,” Taborda said.

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Associated Press writer Jairo Anchique contributed to this report in Colombia.

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