An heartwarming gesture from Atletico Nacional, as they ask CONMEBOL to name Chapecoense winners of the Copa Sudamericana following the tragic crash that claimed the lives of most of the team and staff.
The Brazilian club were travelling to Medellin to face their Colombian counterpart in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final, the equivalent of the Europa League, when their plane crashed in Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Union.
At least 75 lives were lost in the tragic incident, with six individuals, including players Alan Ruschel, Jackson Follmann and Neto among the survivors.
CONMEBOL has suspended “all activities” in the wake of the news and Nacional have called on the governing body to hand Chapecoense – who played fourth-tier football as recently as 2009 – a first major title.
“The pain overwhelms our hearts and invades our thinking in mourning,” a club statement reads. “These have been unfortunate hours in which we have been dismayed by news that we never wanted to hear.
“The accident of our football brothers of Chapecoense will mark us for life and will leave an indelible mark on Latin American and world football. All this has been completely unexpected, that’s why the pain [is so great].
“They were all – footballers, technical staff, journalists and crew – people with many dreams, and that’s why we cry.
“The worldwide lament has also been extended to the entire Verdolaga family, who from their sponsors, their board of directors, their technical staff, their players, their administrators and their fanbase, have manifested the sadness and dismay for the absurd [tragedy].
“Solidarity did not wait and on our part, we join the suffering of all the brothers who left us and who, along with their families and ourselves, shared a great dream of being continental champions of the Copa Sudamericana.
“After being very worried about the human side, we also thought about the competitive aspect and we want to publish this statement in which Atletico Nacional invites CONMEBOL to award the title of the Copa Sudamericana to the Association Chapecoense de Futebol in honour of their great loss and in posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal accident that our sport now mourns.
“For our part, and forever, Chapecoense: Champions of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana.”
A number of Nacional players have echoed the club’s stance.
“The shock, the pain and the astonishment are very great,” striker Ezequiel Rescaldani told TyC Sports.
“We were told that this is in the hands of CONMEBOL because you never know how it will end, but the idea of Nacional is to give the championship to Chapecoense, which I think is a good decision and we all agree with.”
“[Our manager Reinaldo Rueda] said that we should take this as a warning from God to make the most of our life,” Gilberto Garcia added.
“We will wait for the decision to be taken by CONMEBOL, but we want to declare Chapecoense the champions and then look to what is coming.”