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Colombia Plane Crash All you need to know about Chapecoense and their tragedy

Disaster struck two days ago when Brazilian side Chapecoense saw their team wiped out by a fatal airplane crash in Colombia.

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play All you need to know about Chapecoense and their tragedy


Associação Chapecoense de Futebol, widely referred to as Chapecoense or ACF, were founded on May 10, 1973.

They are a community club based in the small city of Chapeco, populated by about 200,000 residents, within the Brazilian state of Santa Clara. They play at the 22,600 capacity Arena Conda.

Known as the Verdão (Big Green) or simply Chape, the club first participated in the Brazilian top flight, the Serie A, in 1978. 

They played another season at the top in 1979, before slipping into the lower rungs for the next 35 years.

Road to the top

In 2009, they were in the languishing in the Serie D, Brazil's fourth tier, but they would manage a fairytale rise to the top in just five years, qualifying for the Serie A in 2014.

After placing 15th in the 2014 season, they went on to place 14th in 2015, following it up with an impressive 9th place finish in 2016 - a result that qualified them for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana (South America's secondary club championship, the equivalent of Europe's UEFA Europa League or Africa's CAF's Confederation Cup). 

Their run to the final of the 16th Copa Sudamericana saw them face daunting odds as a relatively small, inexperienced club.

After receiving a bye in the first round, they beat compatriots Cuiba 3-2 on aggregate in the second round, then needed a dramatic penalty shootout victory to oust Argentine side Independiente in the Round of 16.

Colombian club Junior was the next club to go down in the quarter-final, Chapecoense beating them by a 3-1 aggregate score. 

After that, they came face to face with yet another Argentine club, San Lorenzo, winners of the Copa Sudamericana in 2002. Chape needed the away-goal rule to survive this semi-final after a 1-1 aggregate score.

This meant they had booked a remarkable debut final, where they were to face Colombian side Atlético Nacional, two-time finalists of the competition.

Shattered dreams

It was going to be the biggest match in their 43-year-old history, hopefully to have a happy ending to cap off a beautiful ascent.

But it was never to be.

On November 28, a charter flight  - LaMia Airlines Flight 2933 (LMI 2933) - carrying the team to play the first final leg crashed as it approached José María Córdova International Airport near Medellín, Colombia.

It was brutally fatal, the most devastating plane crash involving a football team in history, surpassing that of Torino in 1949, Manchester United in 1958, Allianz Lima in 1987 and the Zambian national team in 1993.

"A Reuters photographer at the scene said dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage, as about 30 rescuers, police and military personnel searched the crash site. He said the plane had been split in two with only the nose and wings recognisable, and the tail end completely destroyed," reported the Guardian.

Out of the 77 people (68 passengers and 9 crew) on board that flight, which had taken off from Sau Paulo and transited in Bolivia, 71 died.

For Chape, the biggest losers, it was a heartbreaking wipeout: as many as 19 players of the 22 players who travelled perished, leaving only three survivors: defenders Alan Ruschel, 27 and Hélio Hermito Zampier Neto, 31, as well as goalkeeper Jakson Follmann, 24 (whose career has basically come to an end with an amputated leg).

Ruschel's wife took to Instagram to post a message about her husband: “Thank God Alan is in the hospital, stable. We are praying for all of those who were not yet rescued and offer our support to all their relatives. This is a complicated, difficult situation. Only God himself can give us strength. Thank you God.

The coach of the team, 51-year-old Luiz Carlos 'Ciao Jr' Saroli died, too. Interestingly, his son, Matheus Saroli, had been scheduled to be on the flight, but was unable to do so because he had left his passport at home. “We need strength and I ask that you give us a little privacy, especially my mother,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

List of deceased players

Ailton Cesar Junior Alves da Silva (Canela), 22
Dener Assunção Braz (Dener), 25
Marcelo Augusto Mathias da Silva (Marcelo), 25
Matheus Bitencourt da Silva (Matheus Biteco), 21
Mateus Lucena dos Santos (Caramelo), 22
Guilherme Gimenez de Souza (Gimenez), 21
Lucas Gomes da Silva (Lucas Gomes), 26
Everton Kempes dos Santos Gonçalves (Kempes), 34
Arthur Brasiliano Maia (Arthur Maia), 24
Ananias Eloi Castro Monteiro (Ananias), 27
Marcos Danilo Padilha (Danilo), 31
Filipe José Machado (Filipe Machado), 32
Sérgio Manoel Barbosa Santos (Sérgio Manoel), 27
José Gildeixon Clemente de Paiva (Gil), 29
Bruno Rangel Domingues (Bruno Rangel), 34
Cléber Santana Loureiro (Cléber Santana), 35
Josimar Rosado da Silva Tavares (Josimar), 30
Willian Thiego de Jesus (Thiego), 30
Tiago da Rocha Vieira Alves (Tiaguinho), 22

The 51 other people who died included club officials, journalists and other guests.

The three other survivors were a journalist, Rafael Henzel of Rádio Oeste, flight attendant Ximena Suárez and a flight technician Erwin Tumiri, both of Bolivian nationality.

Sadly, goalkeeper Marcos 'Danilo' Padilha survived the crash but later lost his life at the hospital.

The team is now left with just 12 first team players. 

Reactions and Aftermath

I express my solidarity at this sad time when dozens of Brazilian families have been affected by tragedy,” Brazil President Michel Timer, who declared three days of national mourning, wrote on Twitter.

Solidarity with the families of the victims and Brazil," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

"It is such a tragic loss. My sincere condolences to the families of the deceased," said football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, (Pele).

Fifa president Gianni Infantino: "This is a very, very sad day for football. At this difficult time our thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends. Fifa would like to extend its most heartfelt condolences to the fans of Chapecoense, the football community and media organisations concerned in Brazil."

Many footballers from Lionel Messi to Neymar to Wayne Rooney have posted condolence messages too, with #ForcaChape becoming one of the top trending hashtags on social media as football fans across the world continue to express solidarity.

Atletico Nacional, in a classy and human gesture, informed COMNEBOL, South America Football governing body, to award the Copa Sudamericana title to Chape to honour the memories of the deceased. "For our part, and forever, Chapecoense are champions of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana," the club said.

According to reports, some 10,000 people in Chapeco - including family members of the players - gathered at the club's home, the Arena Conda on Tuesday evening to mourn in a vigil. They wore the club's green and white colours and emotionally sang the names of the players, shouting "champions".

A memorial mass was held at the city's cathedral.

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