The picture above, of the little boy in shock, and the video below of the best day in the history of Chapecoense, a Brazilian top division side show the emotions in the rawest of contexts.
Often we write these blogs and we have a moan about something or other, but just occasionally we are all reminded of two things. 1) that football isn’t the most important thing in the world and 2) that sport has a wonderful power to unify.
We all saw this yesterday as the awful events in Medellin, Colombia, shocked not just football, but the world.
The players of Chapecoense were on the way to what their own manager had described as “the biggest game in their history” – a cup match against Colombian side Atletico Naciona – The plane carrying 77 players, staff and journalists lost contact as it approached Medellin at about 22:15 on Monday (03:15 GMT on Tuesday), after the pilot reported an electrical fault. It came down in a mountainous area, killing all but six. One – goalkeeper Marcos Padilha – died later in hospital.
The game (in a sort of South American equivalent of the Europa League) was said to be the pinnacle for a club, who in 2009 were in Brazil’s fourth tier and only got promoted in 2014. The story of this rags to riches rise has been likened to Leicester City winning the Premier League, and their achievement–and subsequent tragedy – has touched everyone, not just fans of Chapecoense.
And if, to paraphrase Bill Shankley, football is not more important than life and death, then nothing is better and bringing people together than sport in awful times.
First Naciona offered to forfeit the match so that Chapecoense would be awarded the cup and then three of Brazil’s top teams Flamengo, Palmeiras and Sao Paulo, have offered to loan the club players as they somehow look to recover from what happened earlier this week (Sao Paulo also suggested that Chapecoense be exempt from relegation for three seasons).
This has echoes of the outpouring of support in the aftermath of the 1958 Munich air disaster, both Liverpool and Nottingham Forest offered to loan players to Manchester United, and players from non-league Bishop Auckland featured for United.
As if to prove that football moves on no matter what, just ten years later United won the European Cup, and although such things will be a million miles away from the thoughts of the fans who are to pack the stadium at the time the cup match would have taken place, the inescapable fact is that Chapecoense FC will find a way to survive – what we have seen yesterday and will continue to see beyond, is that when football brings people together, nothing will divide them.
Petty club squabbles don’t matter, and when, in the aftermath of awful events like this, we can all see the heart-warming reactions of the rest of the world, then maybe football, as a Brazil legend – and perhaps the greatest of them all – said once, is just occasionally, a beautiful game.
Andy ThorleyBack to Blog