By now you’ve surely heard the tragic news from Brazilian football. Chapecoense, playing in their third Série A season since their historic promotion in 2013, were en route to Colombia to take on Atlético Nacional in the Final of the Copa Sudamericana. (It’s basically the Europa League of South America.) It was to be the fairytale ending for a squad that was often compared to Leicester City for their overachieving pluck.
But the team never made it. Their charter plane, LaMia Airlines Flight 2933, crashed late last night outside of Medellin airport. Of the 81 passengers and crew members, 75 did not survive. Only six members of the senior squad remain— three crash survivors and three players who did not travel with the rest of the team.
As fans mourn and the country tries to make sense of what just happened, the football community is coming together for support and solidarity.
Nacional released a statement earlier today asking CONMEBOL to declare Chapecoense the winners of the Copa Sudamericana and hand them the trophy. CONMEBOL has suspended tournament operations but has not indicated whether they would grant the request. If it’s not granted, Chapecoense would be unable to field a team. Here’s the English translation of the end of Nacional’s statement:
”After being very concerned about the human side and thinking about the competitive aspect, we want to publish this statement in which Atlético Nacional invites CONMEBOL to deliver the Copa Sudamericana title to Associacao Chapecoense de Futebol as honorary laurel to this great loss and posthumous tribute to the victims of the fatal accident that has caused our sport to mourn. For our part, and forever, Chapecoense is champion of Copa Sudamericana 2016.”
Additionally, 10 clubs from Brazil’s top flight released a joint statement asking the CBF (Brazil’s governing football body) for special dispensation for Chapecoense, including giving the club immunity from relegation for the next three seasons and for permission to loan players to them for free. “It is the minimum gesture of solidarity that is at our disposal at the moment, but granted with the sincere objective of reconstruction of this institution of Brazilian football that was lost today,” the clubs said in their statement.
Meanwhile, Brazilian president Michel Temer has declared three days of mourning.
”I express my solidarity at this sad time when dozens of Brazilian families have been affected by tragedy. We are offering every form of help and assistance that we can to the families. The air force and foreign ministry have been put to work. The government will do everything possible to relieve the pain of these friends and families of Brazilian sport and journalism.”
And across the world, Chapecoense are being remembered. Both EFL Cup quarterfinals matches in England were preceded by a moment of silence, as were Copa del Rey ties in Spain held today. Major League Soccer also offered their own condolences.
There’s not much that can be done to ameliorate such a complete tragedy as this, but communities demonstrate time and again a capacity for coming together.