One year on from tragic place crash, Chapecoense celebrate as late goal clinches Copa Libertadores berth

Chapecoense have achieved their best ever position in the Brazilian league to earn their place in the Copa Libertadores qualifying rounds, one year after a plane crash killed all but three of their squad, writes Stephen Barry.

The Brazilian club needed a win to secure eighth place in the Serie A, but were tied 1-1 with relegation candidates Coritiba deep in injury time.

It was then, in the 95th minute, that substitute Tulio de Melo darted into the box and found himself on the end of a chaotic attack to send Chapeco fans into delirium at the Arena Conda.

Touchingly, De Melo pointed to the sky during his celebration in an act of remembrance for the 71 victims of the November 2016 crash. De Melo returned to Chapecoense this year, having previously played with many of the victims at the club in 2015.

The current squad is built predominantly on loan players, as well as free signings and promoted youth players.

Remarkably, one of the three players to survive the crash, Alan Ruschel, was an unused substitute, while Jakson Follmann and Neto were also present for the occasion.

There has been some criticism of the club’s commercialisation of the crash at the expense of supports for the victims’ relatives, including from the son of deceased manager Luiz Carlos Saroli.

“Today the club is managed by people without any connection to the victims. Their connection is to marketing, expansion and profit,” Matheus Saroli, who only missed the doomed flight because he forgot his passport, wrote in April.

“It is impressive how much they are worried about the club reconstruction but not about constructing an image of all the warriors who gave their lives to the club... They hire an artistic director, sponsor race cars, do pyrotechnic shows, for this vital 'reconstruction'.”

He told Bleacher Report last month, “We are doing the best we can, but we don't have a relationship with the club anymore”.

KEYWORDS: Soccer, Chapecoense


By Stephen Barry

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