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Sports chaplain praises reaction to Chapecoense crash tragedy

The Chaplain for Sport has praised the response of the football community in the wake of last week’s plane crash that killed 71 people, including most of the Chapecoense football team.

Thousands of people, including relatives of the victims, walked from Chapeco city centre to Chapecoense’s Arena Conda stadium on the evening of Tuesday 29th November.

They sang songs about the team’s players, recited prayers and waved lights in the air using their mobile phones as Brazil began three days of national mourning.

However, in this heartbreaking tragedy – which not only left a football club of young rising stars in ruins, but brought a whole community to its knees – there was a very heartwarming, loving and human response, said Mgr Vladimir
Felzman.

“Heartbreaks in good people release much goodness,” he told The Universe.

“The Brazilian football team Chapecoense’s plane crash brought out the best in many fellow Serie A teams: offering them players on free loans and asking for them to be exempt from relegation for three years.”

A joint statement from Brazil’s top clubs published on the website of Corinthians called for all in Brazilian football to help Chapecoense rebuild as a mark of
solidarity.

‘In this moment of loss and profound sadness we, the presidents of the Brazilian clubs that publish this note, would like to express our sincerest sentiments of sympathy and solidarity with the Chapecoense Football Association and its fans, especially the families and friends of the athletes, technical commission and officials involved in the tragedy that occurred on Tuesday morning (29th),’ the Nota Oficial read on www.corinthians.com.br ‘Even aware of the irreparable damage caused by this terrible event, the clubs understand that the moment is for union, support and assistance to Chapecoense.’

Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, pointed out that Chapecoense had been compared to last season’s surprise Premier League Champions Leicester City by some.

They were regarded as a talented team who displayed passion, team spirit and hard work as they made their way up from Serie D in 2009 to Serie A in 2014 in the Brazilian football league. “The 2016 Copa Sudamericana final was to be the biggest match in their history,” the chaplain continued, noting Chapecoense’s Copa Sudamericana final against Colombian team Atletico Nacional, who are based in Medellín, where the plane had been travelling to for the first leg match.

“Atletico Nacional even requested that Chapecoense be declared Copa Sudamericana champions,” added Mgr Felzmann.

This request was granted earlier this week, when the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) awarded Chapecoense the title of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana, their first continental title, on Monday 5th December. “In London, the Wembley stadium arch was lit up in the team’s traditional green colour,” continued Mgr Felzmann.

“The Football Association said: ‘The thoughts of everyone at the FA are with Chapecoense and all the victims of the tragic air accident in Colombia.’

“Events like this remind me that the future is at best translucent; largely imaginary. The team imagined their victory. No-one imagined the tragedy. In that stable in Bethlehem no-one imagined Calvary. On Calvary no-one imagined the Resurrection.

“Life has taught me to expect the unexpected.”

Picture: Supporters of Brazil’s soccer team Chapecoense attend Mass at the city’s Cathedral in Chapeco, Brazil, on Tuesday 29th November. (AP Photo/Andre Penner).