"The nation had taken Chapeocense to its heart" - Tim Vickery on the tragedy that has impacted a Brazilian club

BBC South American football expert shares an insight on the remarkable rise of the club


Flowers hang from a soccer net at the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco. Image: AP Photo/Andre Penner

On Tuesday morning, the tragic news emerged that a plane carrying 77 people including members of a Brazilian soccer club crashed near Medellin, Colombia.

Chapecoense were travelling to face Atletico Nacional to play in their first finals of South America's major club competition.

The club from the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina had enjoyed a fairytale rise after reaching their country's top flight in 2014.

Three members of the team survived the plane crash.

Off The Ball were joined by BBC South American football correspondent Tim Vickery, who discussed the team's recent success.

"It's a remarkable, fairytale story which has come to such a grim interruption. Chapecoense is a team from a relatively small town called Chapeco in the south of Brazil in the state of Santa Catarina," he said.

"It's a club that didn't get into the Fourth Division until 2009 - nearly went out of business all together 10 years ago. And over the last five years or so, with the terrific management and an excellent spirit in the dressing room, they have risen all the way from the Fourth Division to the First to be the first club to reach a continental final in three years."

That final was the Copa Sudamericana (equivalent to the Europa League in South American terms), whose first leg was to be played on Wednesday.

Their success in Brazil and South America had drawn comparisons with Leicester City's fairytale success in the Premier League, winning them admirers.

"The nation had taken Chapecoense to its heart. It was such a rags to riches story and we are seeing some terrific solidarity from the football world," said Vickery.

"It also seems - although this is unofficial at the moment - that Atletico Nacional, the players are pushing for the title to be awarded to Chapecoense, the title of the Copa Sudamericana, which works on two levels.

"It works as a symbolic tribute to those who lost their lives. It also means that Chapecoense qualify for next year's Copa Libertadores which is the local version of the Champions League and it guarantees the club some income to try and get back on its feet.

"I know at this moment, a lot of these considerations are secondary. But these are wonderful gestures coming from the Colombian side."  

Vickery also explained that it is also a tragedy for Brazilian journalism as 21 journalists lost their lives, including a personal friend and colleague.