If ever there was a story in sports that deserved a movie, it is that of Chapecoense. Just 6 months after the tragic plane crash that killed 77 people, including the majority of the first team, Chape is sitting at the top of the Brazilian Série A for the first time ever.
Prior to the November crash that rocked the soccer community, Chapecoense was the hottest club in Brazil. They were gaining popularity and support after defeating Argentinian sides Independiente and San Lorenzo on the way to the Copa Sudamericana final. That final would be the biggest match in club history but it tragically would never get to take place due to the plane crash that claimed the lives of all but three of Chape’s roster.
This kind of horrific situation is enough to break anyone but, instead, the Brazilian side has shown great resiliency, banding together to become stronger than ever. After the crash, top teams from Brazil and Argentina showed support, offering loan players to Chapecoense, who ended up signing 25 new players this season while promoting nine up from their youth team.
The other Brazilian clubs even offered relegation protection for Chape, meaning that they wouldn’t be pushed out of the first division for a certain amount of years, even with poor performances. The club, however, rejected that protection, wanting to play under the same conditions as everyone else. So far, so good.
Earlier this month, the re-made side brought home the Santa Catarina state championship for the second straight year, and, as of this week, they are at the top of the Brazilian Serie A standings. Not only that, but Chape has also gone undefeated thus far in the season, following a 1-1 draw against Corinthians, a 2-0 win over Avai, and a tight 1-0 win over last year’s champions, Palmeiras.
Not all has been peachy for Chapecoense, however. They are now unable to reach the knockout rounds in the Copa Libertadores, after being docked three points for fielding a suspended player in their 2-1 win over Lanus. Given their roaring start to the Série A, the Libertadores stumble looks to be only a small speed bump on the road back to normalcy.