Tragedy struck the Brazillian city of Chapeco the other day when a flight on the way to Medellin, Colombia, crashed, taking the lives of 71 citizens, including 19 members of their local football team. A three-day period of mourning was declared by the Chapeco government, as a city united in expressing their grief.
For longtime football fans, the incident was eerily reminiscent of the 1993 crash that claimed the lives of Zambian National team. While that team was on their way to winning the Africa Cup, the Chapecoense squad was on their way to the first of two games in the Copa Sudamericana Finals when their flight went down.
Shortly after the crash, Chapecoense’s opponents in the Finals, Atletico Nacional, asked the South American Football Federation to declare the Chapecoense team the champions. In an official statement, the team said, “After being very worried about the human part we thought about the competitive aspect and we want to publish this statement in which Atletico Nacional ask Conmebol to give the title of Copa Sudamericana be given to the Chapecoense as an honorary award for this great loss, and in posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal accident that impute our sport. For our part, and forever, Chapecoense are champions of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana.”
Since the incident, the Atletico Nacional stadium (where they would have competed) in Medellin and the Chapecoense home stadium have become defacto memorials for fans, family members, and others to pay their respects.
For the Nine members of the team weren’t on the plane – Alejandro Martinuccio, Nenem, Demerson, Marcelo Boeck, Andrei, Hyoran, Nivaldo, Moises and Rafael Lima – the impact is unimaginable. Of the nine, veteran goalkeeper Nivaldo has already announced his intention to retire from professional competition following the incident.
Speaking to media, Nivaldo said, “Everything has a reason in life.”
Members of the international football community were quick to send their sympathies, and have proposed ways to compensate for the Chapecoense in the South American football rankings, with three of Brazil’s leading clubs offering players to help fill their ranks. Six-time champions Sao Paulo went on the record to say that Chapeco should be exempt from relegation to their country’s second tier for the next three seasons as they attempt to rebuild the club.
For others, priorities have now changed as the focus has shifted from winning a title to rebuilding. Indeed, reserve goalkeeper Marcelo Boeck, who had originally been scheduled to leave next year, was quoted as saying “We hope we can help rebuild in the memory of our team.”
As for the Chapecoense team itself, club director Cecilio Hans has gone on the record to say that it will be rebuilt: “In the memory of those who died and to honor their families, we will rebuild this club from scratch so it is even stronger.”
To the memory of the fallen and the posterity of those who would honor their memory, PlayPH offers our sincerest sympathies.