On November 28th of last year, first responders to the Chapecoense plane crash in Antioquia, Colombia were aided by an unlikely hero: 15-year-old Johan Alexis Ramirez. The young Colombian helped guide teams of rescuers towards the wounded, earning him the moniker of “El Niño Angel” in his homeland. Now, three months after the tragedy that rocked the global soccer community, Spain’s Real Madrid have stepped up to give us a truly heartwarming follow-up to such a dark day.
The Spanish giants played hosts this week to Ramirez, fulfilling the young man’s dreams of meeting his favorite club’s roster. The club set up photo sessions with a variety of players, as well as having Ramirez attend a training session with the squad. At the end of the event, Los Cafeteros superstar James Rodriguez presented his fellow Colombian with a ball signed by the entire squad, as well as a jersey signed by the #10 himself.
Speaking on Real Madrid’s website afterwards, El Niño Angel emotionally recounted what it was like to meet one of his idols: “James represents all Colombians. It’s very emotional and something very nice for me. This shirt is a very nice gift that I will have for a lifetime, it’s a pleasure for me.”
Since the plane crash that claimed the lives of 71 and forever altered Chapecoense’s history, stories of bravery and endurance have made the rounds throughout the soccer world. From Helio Neto, the central defense who woke up from a coma 13 days after the crash, to the chilling and inspiring vigil at their home stadium, the international community has rallied around the club to help it move forward. Chapecoense currently sits in 11th in the Brazilian system’s first division, after politely rejecting offers of help from other Brazilian clubs in order to “rebuild properly” in honor of their fallen teammates.