Champecoense has been through a journey that no other futbol team could even imagine in their worst nightmares. A flight last November that should have been for an opportunity to win the Copa Sudamericana title ended up with all but three players dying on a mountainous area of Medellin, Colombia just miles from the airport.
The team played their first game since the tragedy. It was a friendly versus the league winners Palmeiras. Before the game began, Champecoense, joined by families of the victims, were presented with the Copa Sudamericana trophy that Athletico Nacional requested to be awarded to the team following their loss.
The three surviving players, goalkeeper Jackson Follman, defender Zampier Neto, and winger Alan Ruschel lifted the trophy in honor of their fallen teammates.
Champecoense fell behind in the game 1-0 before leveling the game with a goal from Douglas Grolli, who is on loan at the Brazilian club. In the second half, Champecoense took the lead from Amaral’s goal.
During the 71st minute of the competition, the stadium was alive with the chant “Vamos, Vamos Chape” (Let’s go Chape) while a tribute played on the big screens for the fans. With only 12 minutes left in the game, Vitor Carvalho denied any chance of a victory.
Former Champecoense player Janca told reporters that the grief still exists, and the fans are not convinced by the signings during the offseason. He was although happy to see futbol come back to Champe. “It is just unbelievable that they managed to rebuild the entire team, and the club board in such a short time,” said Janca “It will take some time until people trust.
One of the strikers, Tulio de Melo, returned to Champecoense to help rebuild the team. This game was different for him. “It was not a normal game, but it was great to see the supporters behind us, we did good for the honor of our friends who are not here anymore.”