A wave of solidarity and sportsmanship has swept through the world of professional football days after a plane accident killed nearly the entire Brazilian soccer team of Chapecoense and their staff.
Founded in Chapecó, a small city in the countryside of southern Brazil, the Chapecoense team was founded a little over 40 years ago. In the past seven years they managed to play convincingly well to remain in the country’s Major Soccer League.
This year in particular things were going really well for the team, until Tuesday when, on their way to Colombia for a tournament, their charter flight ran out of fuel and crashed, killing 75 people in the worst accident in the soccer history.
Between the tears and grief (the Brazilian and Colombian presidents declared 3 days of mourning), this disaster brought out the best in people. The Colombian team scheduled to play against Chapecoense, Atlético Nacional, sent an official message to FIFA – the Federation that organizes the tournament – stating they wanted FIFA to declare Chapeconse as the 2016 champions. They also invited every football fan in the region to go to the stadium to say goodbye to fallen roster.
“Tonight was supposed to be a party in celebration of football, but we decided to use this time to invite fans to pay their respects to the athletes and staff of Chapecoense. We would also appreciate FIFA’s understanding in declaring Chapecoense the 2016 Champions of Copa Sulamericana,” according to a translation of the official note.
Other members of the Brazilian Major Football League also took action, sending FIFA and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) an official letter suggesting that every team on the League should offer a player for free to help rebuild Chapecoense’s roster. They also suggested an amendment to the rules that would save the devastated team from being demoted to the lower leagues over the next three years, in case a losing record would merit it.
Soccer teams, players and cities around the world also expressed their condolences. Players and teams are changing their official social media pictures to the Chapecoense’s logo, and major tourist attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil and the Orlando eye, in Florida, are adorned with lights of the team colors – white and green.
As this text is being written, the soccer stadium where the match was supposed to happen in Colombia is packed with fans paying their respects for the players. The whole stadium as well as many cities Brazil are singing the chorus “vamo vamo chape” (let’s go Chape), a beautiful gesture from fans everywhere.
FIFA released a note saying they will evaluate the possibilities in a meeting on December 21st. CBF says the agenda of 2016 Major Soccer League includes one more game for each team and they will evaluate what will be done when it’s appropriate.
The Major Football League of 2016 already had crowned a champion, Palmeiras, and that team has obtained authorization from the appropriate authorities and sponsors to play the last game using Chapecoense’s jersey on their final game.