This week was supposed to be filled with excitement as Associação Chapecoense de Futebol prepared for the first leg of the Copa Sudamerica final. As a small and relatively young team, Chape had been gaining momentum in the last few years – climbing all the way to Brazil’s top division and beating teams like Argentina’s San Lorenzo and Independiente on the way to the final of the continental tournament. They had also recently traveled to Colombia to face Barranquilla-based club Junior in the quarterfinals. The team was set to land in Medellin, Colombia for its Wednesday match against Atlético Nacional. Tragically, the British Aerospace 146 short-haul aircraft carrying the team and a group of journalists crashed – killing most on board.
According to The Guardian, 72 passengers and nine crew members started their journey in Sao Paulo, Brazil at 3:35 p.m. local time. The plane made a stop in Santa Cruz de la Sierra Bolivia before setting off for Colombia. At about 10 p.m., Colombia’s José María Córdova airport released a statement that a plane traveling from Santa Cruz had reported electrical failures somewhere between the Colombian municipalities of La Ceja and La Unión.
After hours of rescue efforts, authorities have confirmed that six people survived. This includes two crew members, three athletes, and one journalist. Reports initially said that goalkeeper Danilo also survived, but he died from his injuries, Globo reports.
As more details are released, some truly heart-wrenching stories have come to light. Just last week, 22-year-old striker Thiaguinho learned he was going to be a father.
And for the players who didn’t make it onto the plane, it’s especially devastating. Alejandro Martinuccio’s injuries sidelined him. “I was saved because I got injured,” he said on Argentina’s La Red radio. “I feel profound sadness. The only thing I can ask is prayers for the companions who were on the flight.”
Back in Chapecó, crowds gathered at the Condá Arena to mourn. Wearing jerseys and carrying flags, the group prayed, according to The Guardian. Brazilian President Michel Temer released a statement and offered his support. “I express my solidarity at this sad time when dozens of Brazilian families have been affected by tragedy,” he wrote. “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.”
As soon as the news spread, players from around the world offered their condolences:
In an interview with Win Sports, Gilberto García revealed that he and his teammates requested that CONMEBOL declare Chape the victors of the match.
Tomorrow, Atlético Nacional has asked everyone to come to its stadium dressed in white so that they can pay tribute to the team.
But as Chape requested, this is how everyone should remember the players: