The Chapecoense Story


Sterling Sellers, Sports Smarty Pants

 In the Brazilian city of Chapecó, soccer is a way of life; not unlike many other cities in the largest country in South America. The city of just over 200,000 residents rabidly support the local professional soccer team, Associação Chapecoense de Futebol or Chapecoense for short. 

     On December third, the “Verdão” (Big Green) secured qualification for next years’ Copa Libertadores. This is the highest club competition in South America, and being in the tournament is a great honor for many teams. However, qualification will mean more to Chapecoense than it will to any other club.

      To fully understand the gravity of this accomplishment, one must observe the tragedy that occurred on November 28, 2016. Chapecoense had reached the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, another large South American tournament.

      The team was on it’s way to Medellín, Columbia in order to play the first leg of the final. Seventy-seven people boarded LaMia Flight 2933 that day, but only six people would survive the ensuing carnage. The plane crashed into the Columbian countryside after completely running out of fuel, allowing only three players, one crew member, and two others to escape with their lives.

       Sympathizers from across the globe offered their donations and assistance to the club. Even some of soccer’s greatest stars offered to come out of retirement in order to help fill the roster, so that the club could continue to compete in the Brazilian first division. 

      Many other Brazilian teams loaned players to Chapecoense at little to no cost so that they could recover from the disaster. The recovery effort touched the hearts of millions, and proved extremely effective.

      As this year’s Brazilian Serie A season came to a close, it was Chapecoense who celebrated after defeating Coritiba with a late goal. The celebrations were shared across the whole city of Chapecó. The residents know that the celebrations represent not only a great victory, but also the resolve of a team that endured a seemingly insurmountable tragedy.