It’s been three days since a tragic air disaster shocked the world. The plane that crashed in Colombia was carrying 77 people, and 71 of the passengers didn’t survive. Nineteen of the victims were football players from the Brazilian club Chapecoense.
The squad was on its way to Medellín, where the small club would face the Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamerica final, roughly the equivalent of the Europa League.
There’s little need to say it’s been a tense week in Brazil. After the accident was reported and the number of deaths was confirmed, there’s still been developments over the past few days, with investigations, tributes and updates about survivors.
These updates have been released many times a day, and rather than update an English speaking audience several repeatedly, we decided to put everything together so you can keep up with it.
Let’s start with the cause of the accident. After many rumours, it’s been established that the plane had run out of fuel when it crashed.
The most common theory is that the plane simply took off without enough fuel. It’s reported that according to information from LaMia, the airline operating the flight, that the plane could carry enough fuel to go 2,965km, and this flight had a scheduled distance of 2,940km. Therefore the extra amount of fuel required to deal with unforeseen circumstances simply wasn’t available.
This isn’t unheard of, but then another plane had to make an emergency landing at the airport. Chapecoense’s plane, which was called LaMia 2933, had to wait to land, but the it’s been alleged the pilot couldn’t tell the control tower he had no fuel because he’d receive a big fine or even be arrested.
It was only at last moment, as the flight’s voice record has made clear that it was communicated there was a serious problem and a breakdown. Flight controllers tried to help, but it was too late.
The list of survivors was confusing in the beginning, with people confirmed dead being alive, and people named as survivors succumbing to injuries quickly. Goalkeeper Danilo, the great hero of the qualification for the finals, died in hospital.
Six people survived. Two members of the crew, one journalist and three players. Defender Neto, who was thought to be dead, and despite spending much of the night under the cold and rain, survived. His father has revealed he’s been told Neto will be able to play football again.
Goalkeeper Jakson Follmann had one leg amputated. Despite the bad news, it was better than expected, as it was said he would have to lose both his legs.
Fullback Alan Ruschel had spinal surgery and doctors told reporters he could be paralysed. But more recent updates say this chance is very small now, and the player is already in communication with his family.
Crew member Erwin Tumiri said he only survived because he followed the security protocols. One of his colleagues, Ximena Suarez, told the press she only remembers the lights going off before the crash.
Journalist Rafael Henzel is going through multiple surgeries and is having a slow recovery. He’s conscious, but his health situation is still delicate.
Given that 21 journalists died, it was not only the biggest tragedy in Brazilian sport, but also in the national press.
All the victims are currently being sent to Brazil. All the Chapecoense players and employees will have a big wake at the club’s stadium, Arena Condá, on Saturday, as the other victims are set to be sent to their home cities.
The wake at the stadium will last six hours and fans will only be allowed to watch it from the stands. The pitch will be available for family, friends and authorities only.
Brazilian president Michel Temer is still to confirm his presence. He’s afraid of being booed during the ceremony, so asked some relatives of the victims to meet him at the airport. The father of defender Felipe has already told ESPN he’s not going, as the president is the one who should be at Arena Condá to pay his respects without being helped.
The Brazilian league was almost over, with only one fixture to go, but you can’t underestimate the lack of sanity of the CBF officials.
First they’ve decided to postpone the fixtures by only one week, meaning they will be played on Sunday the 11th. Chapecoense would have to play their game.
Then CBF president Marco Polo Del Nero said he wanted a big party because Chapecoense and the city of Chapecó deserve that.
Well, that’s probably the stupidest thing to be said this week. Especially coming from a president who couldn’t leave Brazil to visit Medellín because he’s afraid he could get arrested in case he leaves the country. Unsurprisingly, it created a big revolt from the entire press.
Internacional, who are a big club, had their lack of class too. They’re currently fighting against the first relegation in their history. That’s why club vice-president Fernando de Carvalho said they had their ‘own tragedy’ and the postponement of their fixture could harm them.
But at least there are still people with reason. Atlético-MG said they will not be travelling to play against Chapecoense. Neither of the clubs are still fighting for something in the league, so the result wouldn’t make much difference.
Several Brazilian clubs will have Chapecoense logos on their kits during their fixtures, besides other honours made during the week. League champions Palmeiras will face Vitória, and both teams will use Chape kits in the match.
As Chapecó is pretty far from the big centres of Brazil, several cities are scheduling more tributes for the dead. Most of them will happen on Wednesday night, when the second leg of the Sudamericana final would have been played.
Atlético Nacional are pressing CONMEBOL to give Chapecoense the trophy, even though CBF had suggested that the title should be divided. CONMEBOL are still to make an official decision, despite reports in Brazil saying they’ve accepted the suggestion to give Chape the title.
In case it’s decided the match should happen anyway, Atletico Nacional said they’ll use their U-17 squad or score own goals.
No words can describe all the tributes that clubs from all over the world have been paying to Chapecoense. Despite the big tragedy, it was really something unexpected, especially with tributes coming from other sports.
But the biggest tribute really happened in Medellin on Wednesday night. A gathering was held at the time that the first leg should have been played, so there wasn’t a better moment.
Thousands of people filled Atletico Nacional’s Atanasio Girardot stadium, and those who couldn’t get in gathered in the nearby streets. “A new family is born”, said some banners. Brazilian authorities were present at the event as well, and it was certainly the most beautiful farewell that the Chapecoense team could have.
Brazilian channel Fox Sports, who lost six professionals in the accident, showed it all live. It was a really emotional moment for those watching on TV, and this was the day when Atletico Nacional won millions of new fans all over Brazil.
We must say that two clubs had their history changed after the accident. Chapecoense faced disaster and gained love from the entire world, but we just can’t forget what Atletico Nacional have been doing since Tuesday. That’s why, for the first time, a club will represent an entire continent during the FIFA World Cup of Clubs this month.
Atletico Nacional and the Colombian people were capable of uniting the continent in a way we have never seen before. We’ve seen many football clubs supporting each other, but nothing compared to the true love shown by our South American brothers lately. And we’re really grateful for that.