On November 28, 2016, Brazilian top-flight side Chapecoense were on an unprecedented rise to the top of South America when disaster struck.

By 90Min
November 12, 2017

On November 28, 2016, Brazilian top-flight side Chapecoense were on an unprecedented rise to the top of South America when disaster struck.

Within the space of five years, the relatively young side, founded in 1973, ascended from Brazil's fourth division in 2009 to the Serie A in 2014. 

The side had the opportunity to put the icing on the cake, by conquering the sub-continent and winning the Copa Sudamericana, the second largest club competition in the region.

The final saw them go up against Colombian powerhouse Atletico Nacional with the side making their way to Colombia to prepare for the first leg of the clash.

The plane carried a combination of players, board members, coaching staff, journalists and members of the airline when the disaster struck.

Survivor Alan Ruschel reminisces about the commencement of the flight saying: "It was a happy moment for the whole team, we were making history for the club. We wanted to seize the day and win the title."

The players eagerly awaited the final, with the prospect of lifting the prestigious trophy lingering in the back of their minds. It is significant to note that the Argentinian side, including five-time Ballon d'Or winner, Lionel Messi, boarded the same plane, 18 days prior.

Alexandre Loureiro/GettyImages

As the plane approached its destination, 10 miles away, players awoke to the noise of the engine rattling and shaking as the plane cruised at 18,000 feet.

Former goalkeeper Jackson Follmann explained: "The lights went out, the engines shut off. We heard only the wind. We began to pray. Then I woke up at hospital."

It was at 9:58 pm when the plane fatally crashed into the Colombian mountains at 8,500 feet, which proved to be fatal for 71 of the 75 passengers on board.

The brother of the club masseur Serginho recalled: "At 2.45am, a player’s girlfriend called me and she didn’t know if it was true. She had seen it on Facebook. I told her I’d check. Surely it can’t be true? I turned the TV on and tuned into Globo news channel. It said the plane had fallen and they didn’t know if anyone survived. We rushed to the stadium, the press started arriving, so did relatives, because the plane really had crashed." 

"We were waiting for something — anything — to tell us our loved ones were OK."

Buda Mendes/GettyImages

Ruschel also recalls the way in which he was able to survive claiming: "One of my last memories, Jackson asked me to change seats. I was sat at the back with the journalists. But he kept nagging me to come and sit with him, so I did. The person sat in my original seat died."

He still wonders why it was him that survived as he says: "I can’t answer that question. Actually, I can’t, really, It’s hard to understand how and why.

"I have to believe they are God’s plans. God left me here for some reason, so it would be unfair of me to stay in a corner, depressed, not saying anything. I was left here to be a good example for people, a good example of... a guy who fights for life, for his job, a good example of overcoming problems.

"We can miss these guys without being sad. We can be happy for the lives they lived. We’ll miss them for the rest of our lives but, at the moment, I’m living, sadness doesn’t fit very close.

"I try to live my life always representing the ones who aren’t here anymore and always make my life the best way possible."

The Chapecoense players have, thus far, refused any psychological support with Ruschel claiming: "God was my psychologist."

Buda Mendes/GettyImages

"He lit my path so I could understand why I stayed here. I’m always taking strength from Him. After what happened “we” search more for God and become more attached to Him because He was responsible for me being here today."

Serginho's brother also says: "I can’t say it’s anger but it’s a huge pain and it takes time to swallow. My brother left a daughter aged 21 and his two-year-old son. It could have been avoided. It causes rage because it wasn’t a mechanical failure, it was human."


Former Goalkeeper Follman, who has flown on more than 40 flights since the crash said: "The club is standing on its own feet. What sets it apart is that it doesn’t bet more than it can pay, it does everything inside its budget, this is the identity of Chapecoense. So now life goes on, obviously never forgetting what happened, but now the club is walking on its own, which is important."

Although the tragedy happened almost a year ago, the impact felt around the club will still be fresh in the minds of players and supports.

Their next game will be up against Santos in the Serie A and emotions will certainly be high as we approach the one year anniversary.

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