Crash club Chapecoense awarded Championship

Brazilian club Chapecoense have been awarded the Copa Sudamericana by South American football confederation Conmebol after most of their team died in a plane crash en route to the final.

Seventy-one people, including 19 players and staff, were killed in last Monday’s crash on the way to Colombia for the first leg.

Colombian opponents Atletico Nacional, who asked for Chapecoense to be awarded the trophy, have been given a Fair Play award to acknowledge their “spirit of peace, understanding and fair play”.

Chapecoense will be given the $2m (about Sh200 million) in prize money while Atletico Nacional will receive $1m (Sh100 million).

Chapecoense vice-president Ivan Tozzo hailed the decision as “justice”, telling a news conference on Monday: “We were sure that ‘Chape’ would be champions. It is a beautiful tribute.”

Three Chapecoense players were among six people to survive the crash.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of the accident but a recording suggests the plane was out of fuel moments before the crash outside Medellin.

The small Brazilian city of Chapeco held a massive funeral on Saturday after the victims’ coffins arrived home, each draped in the club’s green and white flag. While 13,000 people have applied to become club members in the just two days.

Teams from around the world, including the Premier League, paid tribute to the players over the weekend and a minute’s silence is scheduled to be held before every Champions League and Europa League game this week.

Brazil’s leading football clubs have pledged to loan players to Chapecoense for free and asked for them to be safeguarded from relegation from the top flight for the next three seasons.

Chapecoense were due to play their final league match of the season on Sunday, 11 December, but have now confirmed the fixture will not be played as the outcome does not impact on the championship or relegation.

As Sudamericana champions, Chapecoense get a guaranteed spot in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.

It also means that Chapecoense will face Atletico Nacional – the defending Copa Libertadores champions – in a two-game series next year between the continent’s two club champions.

Former Brazil and Barcelona forward Ronaldinho and ex-Argentina international Juan Roman Riquelme have reportedly offered to play for the club, while another former Barca player, Eidur Gudjohnsen, has offered his services.

Brazil will play Colombia in a friendly match at the end of January to help victims of the air crash.

 

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