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Argentina Soccer Riot Closes Top Stadium as Messi Awaits Brazil

A Buenos Aires prosecutor ordered the closure of Argentina’s largest stadium after clashes yesterday between police and fans injured more than 30 people as the country prepares to host this week South America’s top soccer tournament.

The closure of Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires was ordered after fans of Club Atletico River Plate hurled bleachers at police and destroyed concessions stands following a match that saw the team relegated to the second division for the first time in its 110-year history. River Plate has won 33 Argentine titles, more than any other team.

The stadium, where Argentina won the 1978 World Cup, was shut down to allow police to “secure the crime scene and gather evidence,” prosecutor Gustavo Galante told news channel C5N today. The facility will remain shuddered as long as the prosecution requires, Galante said.

Argentina is seeking to win its first Copa America, as the South American soccer tournament is called, since 1993 and unseat reigning champion Brazil, which has won four of the last five titles.

Argentina’s squad includes 24-year-old Lionel Messi, who plays for European champion Barcelona and was chosen the world’s best player in 2009 and 2010. The final of the Copa America is scheduled for July 24 in the Monumental, which has a capacity to seat 57,921 people.

River Plate was relegated yesterday after losing a two-match playoff to Club Atletico Belgrano de Cordoba.

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