What makes Football so special? It might be the way the sport brings people together regardless of personal beliefs or racial background or the passion it brings to each fan of any team they support. Sadly that same passion divides fans making them forget that in the end football is a sport and it shouldn’t cause violence among fans. The reality of this whole issue is that it takes something tragic to happen for all of us to remember that same principal. Why am I saying all of this? Well we were 5 days away from the biggest game worldwide and all everyone talked about was the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid that Saturday, everything would be forgotten early Monday morning as devastating news about a plane crash in Colombia changed the football world.
The team affected was a small Brazilian team by the name of Chapecoense. They were scheduled to play Atletico Nacional for the Copa Sudamericana tournament that Wednesday but it wouldn’t be played anymore. I must admit I really had stop paying attention to South American tournaments ever since my team Liga de Quito had stop attending those tournaments. The journey Chapecoense had made up to that final was as magical as fairy tales, they had only 40 years of existence and had made their way to the elite of Brazilian soccer all the way from the Fourth division 4 years prior. Internationally they made it to the final after beating Rivals such as San Lorenzo an Argentinian soccer team that has a strong reputation in South America. The final in Colombia had a significant meaning to “Chape” as this was their first ever-major final in 40 years but as unfair as life can be the final step towards a life long dream was just not meant to be for them. During the first two days details of the accident emerged and at first everyone thought that the pilot tried to save as much lives as possible by emptying the gas tank completely so the plane wouldn’t explode when the plane crashed. When I heard that version I was somehow happy that they had at least tried to make a last effort to survive but at the same time sad by the fact the majority of the team didn’t survive. The final version of the accident pointed out that the plane crash could have been prevented if the pilot would have stopped in Bogotá to refill fuel for the plane, since the plane crashed because it ran out of fuel just before getting to the Medellin Airport, 5 MINUTES AWAY to be exact making it more painful for those directly affected by the incident.
The tragedy affected me on a personal level and not because I’m a football fan but because of the way everything happened. I remember feeling the same sadness I experienced when my grandfather passed away, felt clueless and shock as the stories of the team started coming forward. One of the stories that shocked me the most was the one of former coach Caio Junior who only a week prior to the accident had said “If I died today I would die happy” a quote that gave me Goosebumps after hearing it with the confidence that he showed after qualifying for the final. The what if feeling that the players left with from Bolivia is the same feeling that my grandfather left me with when he passed away. The only difference now is that I knew what the team was destined for even if I barely knew their back-story so it gave me a sense of closure and hope for a future, mainly thanks to the tributes that the world gave Chapecoense.
The tributes have been nothing but beautiful but the most heartfelt one came from Atletico Nacional who stated that Chapecoense be claimed champion of the tournament. They also held a memorial service on the day of the final by calling all of Colombia to show support by attending the event dressed in white. Its needless to say that they didn’t disappoint because more than 100.000 showed up to pay respect to the fallen heroes. Europe reacted as well, with the English Premier league holding a minute of silence during every game until Sunday as well as France, Spain and Germany. Some squads that felt the tragedy personal were Manchester United and Torino since they both had similar stories in their past. South America in the other hand united as one by offering the club free players on loan so they could rebuild after the tragedy. I can go on with the tributes but there are far too many but I can say that for seven days the football world turned green in honor of the team that became legend by right without the need of a trophy.
Before I finish I want to acknowledge Chapecoense for teaching us once again that dreams can be achieved. Everyone on social networks felt the tremendous loss regardless of the team they supported. The fans in every stadium respected the minutes of silence because they knew how painful it is for the chapecoense supporters to know that their heroes are never coming back. The future for “Chape” is uncertain now but I can assure you that this is not the end for you; in fact it may be the beginning of something special but only time will tell. Once again Thank you for everything you gave us Chapecoense you can now join the rest of the legends who wait for you in that magical place called heaven, Chapecoense football club, and eternal champions. “Vamos vamos CHAPE!”
PS: Gracias “Chape” por unirnos como pocos lo hacen. El legado que ustedes dejan es inmortal e importante, ustedes siempre serán los eternos campeones y espero que en el futuro vuelvan mas grandes que nunca. Mi mas sentido pésame a los 21 periodistas que perdieron la vida injustamente . Que esto nos enseñe a apreciar cada minuto que tenemos de vida por que hoy estamos aquí pero no se sabe mañana.