2016 has really sucked.
A lot of my thoughts today have been devoted to a soccer team that I didn’t even know existed yesterday. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense suffered a horrible plane crash that claimed the lives of almost the entire team. In total, 75 people perished right as the plane was about to begin its descent into Medellin, joining a list of other footballing tragedies.
Anyway, I recognize I had no emotional attachment to the team, but the tragedy still hit me hard. Part of that is due to the intersection of two of my major hobbies – traveling and watching sports. I’m sure people have been annoyed by my soccer tweets among many others, I hope you’ll indulge me as I process via writing.
What probably is foreign to an American sports fan is just what this team has accomplished. Chapecoense was playing in the 4th division of Brazilian football in 2009. In soccer, many leagues have a promotion/relegation system: the top teams move up to a higher league while the bottom ones move down. What Chapecoense did to enter the top division by 2014 is the equivalent of a single A team working its way up to Major League Baseball.
They were flying to Medellin to play the first half of the Copa Sudamericana final – the second biggest competition in South America. Teams from countries all over South America compete against one another for this cup, hence a Brazilian squad vs. an Argentinian squad in the final. Chapecoense was to play for their first piece of hardware. The amount of work it took to get there from 2009 until now was huge – all to end in the cruelest of ways.
Chape’s opponents’ response to the tragedy has provided a ray of light, and I’ve watched the footballing world unite in honoring Chape today.
In that spirit, my heart goes out to the families, fans, and community of the small city of Chapeco. Forca Chape, and as the below tweet says, “may this be the last image of our warriors.” Rest in peace.
— Chapecoense (@ChapecoenseReal) November 29, 2016
Image from Omar Momani at goal.com