“Associação Chapecoense de Futebol”
Not many had heard the name of this Brazilian football club, but on the 28th of November 2016, the world of football woke up to devastating news. The chartered plane carrying the football team from the town ‘Chapecó’ in the Santa Catarina state of Brazil, crashed on the Colombian mountainside killing 71 people. This included players, team staff, journalists, flight staff and other passengers. Only three of the team members survived amongst the six survivors. The team was on its way to Medellin to play the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana 2016 final against Atlético Nacional, a Colombian football team. The fairytale of the club who had entered the first division of the football in 2014 was brutally cut short.
Fate or Negligence?
The investigations surrounding the incident are reporting the fact that the accident had happened because the plane ran out of fuel. Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reported that the Colombian civil aviation authorities had confirmed there was no fuel in the aircraft’s tank and have now opened an investigation. A leaked recording of the final moment conversation between the air traffic control and the pilot reveals the plane had ‘fuel problems’. It is also said that a Bolivian flight attendant who survived the crash had told rescuers the plane had run out of fuel moments before the crash. There have been eyebrows raised about the choice of LaMia Airlines. LaMia Flight 2933 – the plane that crashed, was the only functioning plane that it had owned and it was 17 years old. An Argentine newspaper ‘La Nacion’, reported that very few airlines provide chartered flight services in Latin America and LaMia does it at cheaper costs compared to most other airlines. The website of LaMia said that the crashed plane, Avro RJ85 jetliner’s maximum range was 2,965km just under the distance between Medellín and Santa Cruz before the site was taken down. Most of the fans have expressed anger after the audio about the fuel problem has been leaked.
While most of the evidences point towards fuel and maintenance negligence, it is very difficult to blame an individual for this. The first leg of the flight was delayed by an hour, the fuel stop at Cobija had been ruled out as that airport doesn’t operate during the night. There was also a delay in allowing the emergency landing of the plane as another plane had already started an emergency descent during that time. The reports about the external weather conditions when the flight crashed, haven’t been very clear.
Mainly known as known as Chapecoense, the Associação Chapecoense de Futebol was a relatively new club. It was founded in 1973 and won their first state title in 1977. Their stadium, Arena Condá in Chapeco has a capacity of 22,600. The club was supposed to host the second leg of the final at Estádio Couto Pereira in Curitiba as the requirement for hosting the Copa Sudamericana final has to be in a stadium of a capacity of 40,000 and above. Chapecoense started their Brazilian league football journey by playing in the 4th division in 2009. By 2014, the club had reached Brazil’s first division which is no mean feat. The team was hailed as ‘Warriors’ and winning the Copa Sudamericana Cup would have been a remarkable achievement in this club’s history. Their manager, 51-year-old Caio Júnior has managed many Brazilian football clubs at different levels and is one of the most prominent figures in Brazilian football.
Tributes and Support:
As soon as the news about the incident started spreading, the tributes poured in from around the world. Almost every major division football club tweeted their condolences and observed a one minute silence in the subsequent games they played. The hashtag #ForçaChape went viral almost every player and football fan using it to pay their tribute to this wonderful football club.
Brazilian President Michel Temer, declared three days of official mourning and said: “The Government will do all it can to alleviate the pain of the friends and family of sport and national journalism”. FIFA president,Gianni Infantino was quoted saying that it was a “very, very sad day for football”. Their final opponents Atlético Nacional showed a great gesture by making a request to the governing body of the competition that Chapecoense be awarded the trophy. Eleven Brazilian teams have offered to loan players to the Chapecoense team, free of charge, for the 2017 season. There are even reports that Ronaldinho and Riquelme have offered to come out of retirement and play for Chapecoense for a year for free.
Football fans gathered the following night at the Chapecoense home stadium in Chapeco and paid tribute to their town’s pride. Thousands of fans also gathered at the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín where the final was set to be played. It was very disheartening to see the images of the players who did not travel sitting in the dressing room mourning their team.
It will take a while for the football world to come out of the shock of this unfortunate incident. The Chapecoense club will need time to recover and rebuild. They have already shown the football world once that you can achieve greatness by believing and we all hope they will come back strong again. Football is a beautiful game and it unites people across the world despite their differences in such hard times. Paying tribute to the football club, Arsenal player Gabriel said, holding back his tears: “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today” on how he wanted to talk to Chapecoense’s coach, Caio Junior, on his last birthday but had postponed it. Every day, every moment is a gift of life. Let’s make the most of it while we can.