Chapecoense—a soccer team from Chapecó, an industrial city in Brazil—boarded a plane on Nov. 28 to participate in the Copa Sudamericana, a Columbian soccer tournament. While over the mountains near Medellín, Colombia, the pilot made an emergency call requesting to make an immediate landing. Shortly after, the plane crashed into the mountains, carrying 77 people on board. Only six survived the tragic crash: three players, two crew members and a journalist that was commissioned to follow and report on the team. The rest were presumed dead. This was a tragedy for Brazilian soccer, considering they were one of the greatest success stories in recent years.
Originally, the crash was reported as being due to “total electrical failure.” It was recently discovered, however, that the plane crashed due to a fuel problem. In the recording of the pilot, moments before the crash, he tells the other end of the line that he is almost completely out of fuel. Investigators confirmed this on the ground and said that there appeared to be no explosion.
Brazilian soccer, unfortunately, has a reputation for corruption and foul play. Officials that were involved with the national team that helped land the summer Olympics in Rio are currently serving jail time for admitting to taking bribes. Chapecoense, however, were different.
To those from the city of roughly 210,000 people, they were the pride of Chapecó. Recently, the team’s success gave the industrial city something to rally behind. They were recognized throughout Brazil for their clean ascent, known not only for their success on the soccer field, but also their fair play and transparent management.
The Copa Sudamericana was suspended until Tuesday. On that Tuesday, the team that was supposed to be Chapecoense’s opponent, Atlético Nacional, asked the directors of the tournament to award the championship trophy to Chapecoense due to their loss.
Though this event was a tragedy for Brazilian soccer, it also reminds fans how sports can have the ability to heal. When tragedies like this occur, teams find a way to put rivalries and competition aside by reminding us of what is important.
Out of this tragedy, Brazil and the entire sports world have the opportunity to show everyone why we care about sports as much as we do. In the wake of this tragedy, all we can do is try to honor and to remember these players as best we can. As with any loss, it is important to mourn, but also to celebrate their lives and accomplishments.
Chapecoense’s opponents have already begun to do just that, and the rest of the sports world is following suit.