In the early hours of Tuesday the 29th November, football and indeed, the wider world was shook. News filtered through of a tragic event unfolding that had seen La Mia airways, Flight 2993 crash upon its descent into José María Córdova International airport, Colombia.
The disaster subsequently claimed the lives of no fewer than 75 of the 81 passengers on board that night. Amongst the fatalities, were 19 football players from Brazilian club Associação Chapecoense de Futebol. It was a harrowing incident which bares horrific resemblance to the 1958 Munich air disaster which decimated the famous ‘Busby Babes’ Manchester United football team.
Chapecoense were founded in 1973 through the amalgamation of clubs Atlético Chapecoense and Independente. Located in the Santa Catarina region of Southern Brazil, the city of Chapecó rose to provenance for its food production and distribution through food conglomerate Sadia.
The club has been aptly dubbed the ‘Brazilian Leicester’ by manager Caio Junior back in September for their heroics since 2009. His side have risen all the way from the 4th tier of the Brazilian football ladder to reach the top half of Série A in just 7 seasons. On top of this, they were flying to contest the final of the 2016 Copa Sudamerica final (the equivalent of the Europa League) against Colombian outfit Atlético Nacional.
Only three players survived the crash (Alan Ruschel, Jakson Follmann & Hélio Hermito Zampier Neto) and the disaster serves as a timely reminder of the value of life itself in an ever more money-orientated industry. Following such, proposed finalist opponents Atlético have shown their compassion in calling for Chapecoense to be crowned champions of South America as a mark of respect.
They’re not alone. Clubs across the globe have joined in solidarity to mourn the death of their compatriots whilst providing any condolences possible. Many sides, including Benfica, have offered to loan out players free of charge in order for ACF to replenish their vastly depleted squad, whilst many indigenous teams have campaigned for the club to be exempt from relegation for the next three seasons, as the club to begin the re-building process in times of despair.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer has announced the beginning of three days of national morning for their fallen citizens and requested that the embassy be moved closer to provide the best possible support for the victim’s friends and families. Only time will aid the healing process but in a similar vein to last year’s Glastonbury, with Chris Martin affording the recently deceased band Viola Beach their chance to headline the festival, Chapecoense’s story deserves to be told on the biggest of stages.
They may not have officially won the 2016 Copa Sudamerica, but they have won the hearts of the football community and world over. Pulling everyone together in the darkest of hours.