Nov. 28, 2016 was a very tragic day not only for the world, but for the futbol (soccer) world in particular. VivaColumbia flight FC8170 was en route to Medellín, Colombia, carrying brazilian soccer club Chapecoense–players, managers, training staff and all–on their way to play local team Atlético Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana final. Unfortunately, the flight crashed in Medellín, killing 71 people and leaving only six survivors, three of which were members of Chapecoense.
Chapecoense are not a prolific top flight team in Brazil, but reaching the Copa Sudamericana final was the club’s biggest achievement in their history.
Chapecoense was in the Brasileiro Série D (the Brazilian fourth division) in 2009, and in just five years, they earned several promotions and found themselves in the Brasileiro Série A (the brazilian top division) in 2014.
They were in the middle of a fairy tale season, and after beating San Lorenzo de Almagro in the semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana, the entire town of Chapecó was euphoric.
A small club from a small town making the final of a big name tournament was something the entire town of Chapecó could celebrate.
The plane crash affected the entire world of soccer. Fans and clubs all around the world mourned the loss of the members of this team.
Even their opponents Atlético Nacional were incredibly saddened by this tragedy.
They demonstrated pure sportsmanship by proposing the Chapecoense be named the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and by holding a stadium-wide vigil in Medellín to mourn the loss of the team.
Atlético Nacional wasn’t the only club that showed soccer is more than just a sport.
Many players around the world wore black or green armbands to show support for the club.
Some clubs, including Real Madrid of Spain, removed the sponsor on their kits and replaced it with “Força Chape” (“Let’s go Chapecoense” in portuguese) to show support for the team.
It was also reported that Paris Saint Germain (PSG) of France will donate 40 million euros to the club in support, while soccer legends Ronaldinho and Juan Román Riquelme offered to come out of retirement to play for the brazilian club.
Even Edinson Cavani of PSG showed support after taking off his jersey and scoring to reveal an undershirt that read “Fuerza Chape”.
It’s great to see the global soccer community rally together to support and mourn a small town Brazilian club in a sad time.
But unfortunately, this is not the first time an incident like this has occurred in the history of soccer.
In fact, a plane crash killing the majority of a team has happened three times before this instance.
On May 4, 1949, a plane of Avio Linee Italiane was returning from Lisbon, Portugal, carrying the entirety of the Torino Football Club.
It crashed in Turin, Italy, killing 31 people, including every single player on the team. On Feb. 6, 1958, the Munich air disaster occurred.
A plane returning from Belgrade, Serbia, carrying the Manchester United team that had played a European Cup Match against Red Star Belgrade, stopped in Germany to refuel.
After refueling, the plane tried to take off twice, but each chance was aborted due to low visibility.
On the third attempt, the plane unfortunately crashed with 23 people, including players and staff who suffered major injuries.
On April 27, 1993, a plane carrying the Zambia National Soccer team crashed into the Atlantic Ocean less than a mile offshore of Libreville, Gabon.
The team was traveling to Dakar, Senegal, for a World Cup Qualifying Match, and all 30 passengers on the flight were killed.
These unfortunate events show us that the world of soccer brings people together, regardless of what team you support. Supporting a team does not only mean cheering on your club, it means that your community is just as important.
No matter where you are or what team you support, soccer has the power to bring people together. Força Chape.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at Lstergiou@kscequinox.com