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LATIN AMERICA | 15-04-2020 11:45

Colombian fans trapped in Argentina struggle to return amid pandemic

15 football-crazy Independiente de Medellín fans are trapped in a hotel in Buenos Aires, unable to return to their homes in Colombia.

The plan of 15 football-crazy fans of Colombia's Independiente de 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 in Buenos Aires. 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 spoke on the behalf of the supporters in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

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

The fans attempted to return home via Bolivia and Brazil, but when they were about to cross the border with Bolivia, 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 authorisation 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 Argentines coming from abroad to quarantine.

All the supporters 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 neighbours 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.

by Debora Rey, Associated Press

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