By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Saturday, December 3rd, Ivan Tozzo, interim-president of the Chapecoense football (soccer) team announced that CONMEBOL, the governing body for South American football, has posthumously awarded the club the 2016 Copa Sudamericana championship. A plane carrying the Chapecoense team had tragically crashed en route to Medellin on Monday, November 28th, killing 71 people and leaving six survivors.
“CONMEBOL have declared Chapecoense as champions of the Copa Sudamericana,” exclaimed Tozzo to O Globo, following a memorial event at Arena Condá, Chapecoense’s home stadium. “In addition, the club will receive the two-million-dollar prize.”
“Everything is confirmed,” Tozzo added. “I do not know if there will be a ceremony to receive the cup.”
The crash occurred as the Santa Catarina club had been flying on Monday to play Columbian team, Atlético Nacional, in the first leg of the Sudamericana championship final on Wednesday, November 30th. Monday’s tragedy prompted Atlético Nacional to request that CONMEBOL award the title to their opponents as a gesture of sportsmanship.
“For us, and forever, Chapecoense shall be the Copa Sudamericana champions for 2016,” said Atlético Nacional in a released statement.
Initial reports into the cause of the plane crash have so far revealed that the plane allegedly ran out of fuel during its approach to Medellin. Other Brazilian clubs have offered to loan players to Chapecoense to help the team play the remainder of its regular season schedule.
“We are receiving support from all federations, the CBF, CONMEBOL, FIFA, and especially the people of Chapecó,” said Tozzo, who explained that the organization has two goals following the tragedy, “First, was the goal to comfort the family, now the second goal, from next week, is to start thinking and planning what to do.”
Tozzo indicated that the team will now make the necessary plans for the future. “Right now we are beginning to rebuild the team. People want football, people love football in Chapecó,” Tozzo explained.
“And the great joy of our Santa Catarina in football is Chapecoense, “he added, “So, we have to continue this, we will talk and get right, let the dust settle, and we will rebuild the team for next year.”