Brazilian club Chapecoense have been awarded the Copa Sudamericana by Conmebol after decimation of their team 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.
Their opponents Atletico Nacional, asked for Chapecoense to be awarded the trophy, which also merited Atletico Nacional a Fair Play award to acknowledge their “spirit of peace, understanding and fair play”.
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.”
Investigations are still underway, looking for the cause of the accident but a recording suggests the plane ran out of fuel moments before the crash outside Medellin.
Chapecoense received an outpour of support, 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.
The 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.
As Sudamericana champions, Chapecoense get a guaranteed spot in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.
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.