Chapecoense, known as Chape, was in the midst of a remarkable run. As recently as 2009, the club was playing in Brazil’s fourth division, but it won promotion to the top league in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s.Victories over San Lorenzo and Independente - two of Argentina’s fiercest squads - as well as Colombian club Junior took the team to the Copa Sudamericana finals, the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League tournament.
The Brazilian team was flying to Colombia for one of the biggest matches in its history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana, when disaster struck. Chapecoense tragically lost 19 players when a plane crashed on route to Colombia - killing 71 people on board.
Five of Brazilian football’s top clubs have said they will loan Chapecoense players for free after the horrific plane crash that killed all-but three of their squad. The directors of Coritiba, Corinthians, Palmeiras, Portuguesa, Santos and Sao Paulo have put forward a motion to the Brazilian FA that Chapecoense will not be relegated from the top flight for three years.
Football legends Pele and Maradona as well as current superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo led tributes to the players of Chapecoense, a humble team whose march to glory was cut abruptly short. Meanwhile, South American legends Ronaldinho and Juan Roman Riquelme are reportedly considering coming out of retirement to play for Chapecoense following a huge social media campaign. Riquelme, who last played for Argentinos Juniors in 2014, has won Argentina’s Footballer of the Year four times whilst Ronaldinho was crowned the world’s best player in 2005.
As a football fan, I am very proud of the solidarity shown by the football world towards Chapecoense. The football world has come together to pay tribute to the side and their families. Sometimes football restores your faith in humanity. Actually, football can teach us many good lessons if we are willing to observe and learn.
The great Torino side in 1949 was wiped out in a plane crash - they received a lot of solidarity afterwards. But you look at their subsequent history and you see how difficult the challenge has been for them. Chapecoense are a much smaller team from a small town, so even with all this solidarity, it is a very difficult task for a club, a fairytale club from a small town that came so far in such a short time. The Copa Sudamericana final was to have been the game of their lives - destiny decided they would be denied the opportunity to live out that dream.
Image: Credit to Chapecoense Facebook
Source: BBC, The Guardian, Associate Press