Thursday, December 8, 2016


Nobody could have expected what happened last week towards the end of November, when a charter flight of Bolivian airline LaMia, LMI2933 on board an Avro RJ85 crashed while en route from Santa Cruz to Rionegro in Colombia to face local team Atletico Nacional in the final leg of the Copa Sudamerica (South America Cup). Aboard were a near majority of the current playing roster of the Brazilian Chapecoense football club (ACF), their support crew, club officials and journalists.

When the crash site was surveyed later by emergency workers, only seven people out of the 77 passengers and plane crew were found alive, and one of them succumbed to his injuries afterwards. Three of these were survivors were Chapecoense players; added with players that did not join the tragic flight, the club looked to be at a very sorry state indeed, on top of their great losses.

In the midst of their grief however came a most heartwarming gesture from unexpected quarters. BBC reports that the Colombia Atletico Nacional, which the ACF would have faced last November 30 and again on December 7 during the Finals leg of the Copa Sudamerica, have instead petitioned the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) that this year the cup ought to be awarded to the ACF. The request was granted by CONMEBOL and on December 5, two days before what would have been the second finals game on Colombian soil, the ACF received the 2016 Copa Sudamerica trophy.

It was a measure of comfort for the survivors, relatives and fans of the fallen members of the Chapecoense, something to assuage the pain they all felt when the coffins of the fallen team members and head coach were returned to Brazil and presented before the crowd at home stadium with military bearers. The pictures of grief then had been many, from three of the remaining players sitting at the team’s empty locker room to the widow of Dener Assunção Braz; the two should have been married after the first finals game. They were not alone in mourning, as other footballs teams all over the world paid tribute to ACF before every game during this week.

Meanwhile, in another show of solidarity, at least four major Brazilian clubs have offered to lend the Chapecoense some of their own players to fill out the undermanned roster, with the volunteer temporary transfers even free of charge. The expenses for embalming of the casualties and transport back to Brazil was also footed in full by a local insurance company.

For their graciousness, Colombia Atletico Nacional was honored by the CONMEBOL with the "Centenario Fair Play" award. Other clubs have requested that the Brazilian Football Confederation to keep the AFC’s standing in the first division for the next three seasons while it rebuilds.

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