Brazilian Serie A side Chapecoense have played their first match since the plane crash in which 19 of the club’s players and coach Caio Junior were killed.
The three players who survived the tragic crash in the Andes on November 28 were present at Arena Conda to see Chapecoense draw 2-2 in a friendly match against Brazilian league champions Palmeiras, with an entirely new team of players wearing the club’s colours on a day of raw emotions in Chapeco.
The team were on their way to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana when the tragedy occurred, and survivors Neto, Jakson Follmann and Alan Ruschel were presented with the competition’s trophy in a moving ceremony before the match.
Douglas Grolli scored the club’s first goal since the tragedy to level the scores at 1-1 after 14 minutes, and Amaral – on loan from Palmeiras – put the home side ahead just after half-time.
The game finished 2-2 as a capacity crowd took the opportunity to watch the loan signings and youth team players who will carry the torch for the club’s fallen heroes this season.
Survivor Ruschel told TV Globo: “It’s a unique feeling. We can just thank eveyone’s prayers.
“There’s a big challenge ahead of us, so let’s try to honour the ones we lost last year the best way possible.
“I’m thinking about a return to the pitch. Doctors have given me six months to fully recover, and I’m focused on that.”
Follmann, who lost a leg in the crash, said: “It’s a little complicated for me as I’m still at the hospital.
“It’s a great emotion to be here. This is where we used to play and train, and now there’s a beautiful tribute like this. There’s no holding back the tears. There’s no explanation for this feeling.
“We must respect God’s will and move on with our lives now. We’re certainly stronger, and learning to value the simple things after all that happened.”
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