The crash that devestated the soccer world
There are futbol teams that have stars such as Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar that can fill stadiums every week and can win major titles almost every year. On the other hand, there are teams that build from the ground up piece by piece who can only dream of reaching a playoff position but will keep battling till the final whistle.
Team Champecoense is that type of team. A team of many talented young athletes but with the same dream - winning a championship. Back in 1973 in the city of Chapeco, located in the western area of the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil two amateur teams merged to become the Associacao Champecoense de Futebol and had much success within the first few years.
Throughout the years, Champecoense stayed regional up until recently when they moved their way up in the rankings. This began their Cinderella story not only within the league, but also with their fans back in Brazil.
Since 2008, Champecoense has risen in each Serie within Brazil’s national league. In Serie D they were third, in Serie C the highest ranking was third, second in Serie B and recently ninth in Serie A.
This team was being compared to the Premier League Champions of Leicester City, who although under classed, fought their way to the title last year. Caio Junior, coach of Champecoense mentioned the comparison back in September.
“Our team really reminds me of Leicester, a team from an unfancied city that was able to win an important title”, he continued “I want to make a mark this season with this club, this group of players.”
This was the first time that this club had reached the final of a major South American club competition. The road for them was not an easy one. The team had to fend off the Argentinian teams of Independiente and San Lorenzo to make it to the final. From penalties in the round of 16 to scoring away goals in the semi-final, the teams focus and work ethic always came through in the clutch.
It was no wonder that the team atmosphere was very upbeat and positive. Chapecoense had battled off much bigger opponents and had now reached their biggest and one of their final challenges of the season – Athletico Nacional of Colombia.
Charter flight 2933 took off from a Bolivian airport and was at 15,500 feet preparing for landing in Medellin, Colombia when it started experiencing electrical problems while flying through Antioquia.
The pilot circled the area in order to burn fuel and avoid an explosion while preparing to make a forced landing, but in a cruel twist of fate, the jet smashed into a hill and broke in two in a remote mountain area outside of Medellin at 10:15pm last night.
The plane was carrying 81 passengers and at the time of the crash. There were only three players and two others who survived the crash. Because of heavy rains in the mountainous region, the rescue and recovery mission was halted until first light.
There have been reports that the team had to change their flight and board the doomed aircraft after Brazilian aviation authorities prevented them from taking a charter plane.
In a statement from FIFA, President Gianni Infantino commented, “This is a very, very sad day for futbol” he continued, “We are so sorry to hear about the airplane crash in Colombia, it is shocking and tragic news. FIFA would like to extend its most heartfelt condolences to the fans of Chapeconse, the futbol community and media organizations concerned in Brazil.”
“This is a very, very sad day for futbol”, said Gianni Infantino, FIFA president
CONMEBOL, in an official statement, has announced the suspension of all its activities until further notice.
There have been flashbacks to the Munich air disaster in 1958, which killed 23 people including eight Manchester United players, journalists and traveling officials.
Two omens that stood out in this tragedy: Three weeks prior, the same plane carried the Argentinian Futbol team, including Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria to Belo Horizonte, Brazil where they played Brazil in a World Cup qualifier match.
The second was a Facebook message that was posted as Team Chapeconse was preparing to board their flight: “May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists, and other guests traveling with our delegation.”
A David-like team facing a league of Goliaths. With their soccer ball as their slingshot making each shot count on their road to victory. Their dreams of a championship were taken away from them. Nevertheless, they are champions in the eyes of their fans in the town of Chapeco, the country of Brazil, and worldwide for proving that dreams really do come true.