Chapecoense vows to com­pete, pos­si­bly with bor­rowed play­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Mauri­cio Savarese and Stephen Wade

CHAPECO, BRAZIL >> Six play­ers, a hand­ful of sup­port staff, and deep sor­row are all that re­main of Brazil’s Chapecoense soc­cer club.

They will still try to play again. Be­cause they know that’s what their 19 team­mates who died Mon­day when a char­ter plane ripped into an An­dean moun­tain­side would want them to do.

“In the me­mory of those who died and to honor their fam­i­lies, we will re­build this club from scratch so it is even stronger,” club di­rec­tor and lo­cal busi­ness­man Ce­cilio Hans said. “We had ma­te­rial as­sets and hu­man as­sets. Now we’ve lost nearly all of our hu­man as­sets.”

Other clubs in Brazil’s top league are of­fer­ing to loan play­ers to Chapecoense, with a pro­posal that the mod­est club in deep south­ern Brazil is guar­an­teed to stay in the top di­vi­sion for the next three years.

“The club will re­build, I am sure,” said Wal­ter Feld­man, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Brazil­ian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion. “Eight clubs have al­ready called me to of­fer con­crete, ma­te­rial sol­i­dar­ity. We are study­ing ways to best help.”

The crash oc­curred as the team was on its way to the open­ing game of the two-leg Copa Su­damer­i­cana fi­nal — the No. 2 tour­na­ment on the con­ti­nent. Only three play­ers sur­vived, and all are re­cov­er­ing at a hos­pi­tal in Colom­bia: de­fender He­lio Zampier, com­monly known as Neto, de­fender-mid­fielder Alan Ruschel and goal­keeper Jak­son Foll­mann, whose right leg had to be am­pu­tated Tues­day.

At the time they ex­pected to be home watch­ing their team on TV, more than 22,000 Chapecoense fans were at the Arena Conda to cheer, cry, watch videos of trib­utes com­ing from all over the world and at­tend a Catholic Mass.

They cel­e­brated the Copa Su­damer­i­cana ti­tle they hope to share with Atletico Na­cional. They used a song created by Atletico fans: “May they hear/all over the con­ti­nent/that we will never for­get/the cham­pi­ons of Chapecoense.”

With the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims on the cen­ter of the pitch, fans chanted the names of the play­ers one by one and cel­e­brated 5-yearold Car­los Miguel, the club’s mas­cot that many in the city feared to be in the crashed plane. Dressed like a Chapeco in­dian, Car­los waved to the crowd in tears as the sta­dium’s big screen showed mes­sages like “he­roes” and “for­cachape” (be strong, Chape). The few staffers and play­ers who didn’t travel cir­cu­lated the pitch as fans cheered.

Chape, as the team is called lo­cally, reached the top of South Amer­i­can soc­cer with­out any su­per­stars — no high-pro­file play­ers from Brazil’s cel­e­brated national team. It was in Brazil’s fourth di­vi­sion just seven years ago, climb­ing into the first di­vi­sion by 2014. Now it starts the climb again, and this one is even steeper.

Goal­keeper Marcelo Boeck said he and sev­eral play­ers had deals to leave the club new one next year. He said they’re re­con­sid­er­ing.

“We know this is a dif­fer­ent mo­ment, and we are part of it,” he said. “We hope we can help re­build in the me­mory of our team.”

The re­build­ing could start Dec. 11, the date sched­uled for the fi­nal round of league matches in the top Brazil­ian league. Games have been called off this week­end for a pe­riod of mourn­ing.

Chapecoense’s act­ing Pres­i­dent Ivan Tozzo told re­porters on Wednesday the club hopes to play that match against Atletico Mineiro us­ing a pri­mar­ily ju­nior team.

Af­ter that match, there is un­cer­tainty over Chapecoense’s fu­ture. If the team is awarded the Copa Su­damer­i­cana tit­tle —like its fi­nal op­po­nent Atletico Na­cional pro­posed — it would qual­ify for next year’s Copa Lib­er­ta­dores, the Cham­pi­ons League of South Amer­ica which be­gins in Fe­bru­ary.

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