Brazil mourns in7 fallen foot­ball team pour­ing rain

Chapecoense Real, cut down at the height of its glory

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The bod­ies of 50 play­ers, coaches and staff from a Brazil­ian foot­ball team wiped out in a plane crash in Colom­bia ar­rived home yes­ter­day for a mas­sive fu­neral. Fire­works lit up the sky over the sta­dium in Chapeco as two Brazil­ian Air Force planes trans­port­ing the team’s coffins touched down at the south­ern city’s air­port in pour­ing rain.

The coffins, draped in the green flag of the club, Chapecoense Real, were un­loaded onto a red car­pet un­der mil­i­tary es­cort as vic­tims’ fam­ily and friends watched with a mix of sobs and cheers. They were then lined up on the back of four large trucks and be­gan a slow pro­ces­sion to Conda Arena, the sta­dium where just 10 days ago the Chapecoense play­ers were thrilling their fans.

The city is hold­ing a huge fu­neral to honor its lit­tle team that could, cut down at the height of its glory. The un­sung club was hav­ing a fairy­tale sea­son un­til the char­ter plane fly­ing it to the big­gest match in its his­tory ran out of fuel and smashed into the moun­tains out­side Medellin on Mon­day night, killing 71 peo­ple. The city is ex­pect­ing some 100,000 peo­ple-half its pop­u­la­tion-to at­tend. There was im­pos­ing si­lence at the sta­dium as the fu­neral cortege got un­der way, bro­ken only by cheers of “Cham­pi­ons!” when­ever the screens showed images of the pro­ces­sion.

Soak­ing wet from the rain, his eyes red from cry­ing, me­chanic Rui Alonso Thomas was there with his 10-yearold daugh­ter, who was draped in the Chapecoense ban­ner. “We would have been here rain or shine. Our dream was fi­nally be­com­ing re­al­ity. It was so close. There’s just no ex­plain­ing it,” he said, chok­ing back tears. “Chapeco will take a long time to get over this. But I plan to keep com­ing to the sta­dium.”“Chapecoense is in our hearts. It’s our fam­ily,” said Pa­tri­cia Car­raro, a 32-year-old cashier.

The ar­rival was de­layed by an out­pour­ing of emo­tion at a re­fu­el­ing stop along the way, when lo­cals in the Ama­zon city of Manaus flocked to the air­port to pay trib­ute to the crash vic­tims. Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer met the planes on ar­rival and will at­tend the me­mo­rial at the sta­dium. The coach of the Brazil­ian na­tional team, Tite, and FIFA chief Gianni In­fantino will also at­tend. The lat­ter can­celed a trip to Aus­tralia to be there.

‘My son was all pas­sion’

The crash has left the foot­ball world in mourn­ing. A minute’s si­lence for the team will be held be­fore ev­ery Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League game next week. In Brazil, other clubs have of­fered Chapecoense play­ers so it can con­tinue com­pet­ing. Chapecoense had been on their way to Medellin for the fi­nals of the Copa Su­damer­i­cana, South Amer­ica’s sec­ond-big­gest club tour­na­ment.

In­side their sta­dium, a sin­gle set of goal posts re­mains the one star goal­keeper Mar­cos Danilo Padilha, 31, de­fended in the semi-fi­nal match with a heroic last-minute save that sealed Chapecoense’s trip to the fi­nals. “It’s a hor­ri­ble feel­ing, see­ing this and know­ing my son will ar­rive here in a cof­fin,” said his mother, Ilaide Padilha. “It’s very sad re­mem­ber­ing not only that stop (against Ar­gentina’s San Lorenzo), but also... him run­ning across the grass with his arms wide open. My son was all pas­sion.”

Over­flow crowd

The sta­dium has ca­pac­ity for just 19,000 peo­ple. Sol­diers un­loaded the coffins when they ar­rived at the sta­dium. Two gi­ant screens were set up out­side for the over­flow crowd. Tents were put up on the pitch for some 2,000 fam­ily mem­bers and close friends of the team. The other vic­tims-Brazil­ians, Bo­li­vians, a Paraguayan and a Venezue­lan were flown home Thurs­day and Fri­day.

Six peo­ple mirac­u­lously sur­vived the crash, and are be­ing treated in hos­pi­tals. Au­thor­i­ties are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crash. Colom­bia’s civil avi­a­tion safety chief said the crew of the Bri­tish Aerospace 146 jet had dis­re­garded in­ter­na­tional rules on fuel re­serves. The Bo­livia-based char­ter com­pany, LAMIA, had its per­mit sus­pended Thurs­day.

—AFP

CHAPECO: Peo­ple at­tend un­der heavy rain the pas­sage of the fu­neral cortege with the coffins of the mem­bers of the Chapecoense Real foot­ball club team killed in a plane crash in Colom­bia.

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