Atletico Nacional of Medellin were prepared to compete in yet another final this year, having won the Copa Libertadores back in July. Tomorrow, they were supposed to host Brazilian underdogs Chapecoense in the first leg of the the final of the Copa Sudamericana. Another trophy would have rounded off a spectacular year for the club from Medellin. And as if that weren’t incentive enough for the hosts, Atletico Nacional was looking to finally win the trophy having finished runners-up on two occasions (in 2002 and 2014).
But last night, tragedy struck as the plane transporting the Brazilian club’s players, staff and a host of traveling journalists crashed just before arrival in Medellin. There were hardly any survivors.
This morning, the organization responsible behind the regional competition, CONMEBOL announced that the final had been cancelled. And in the past few hours, the Colombian side has announced its desire for the trophy to be awarded to Chapecoense, in commemoration of those who tragically passed last night. The players and directors of the club were unanimous in their desire to award the trophy to Chapecoense, releasing an official statement which they shared via the club’s twitter.
— Atlético Nacional (@nacionaloficial) November 29, 2016
The Colombian side, in addition to conceding the Cup to Chapecoense, have dedicated their twitter page to helping their Brazilian counterparts in every manner possible, promoting a help line for the families of the accident’s victims.
It is expected that in the coming days, CONMEBOL will make the gesture of the Atletico Nacional official and declare Chapecoense champions. If the Brazilians are crowned champions, it will similar to what happened in 1949 when a plane carrying the players of Italian club Torino crashed into the Superga Basilica in Italy, killing all thirty on board. The very same day, the other clubs of the Italian championship decided to award the title posthumously to Torino.
While tributes and messages of solidarity with the club and nation of Brazil flood in today, posthumously awarding the Copa Sudamericana to the players and staff of Chapecoense would be the most fitting tribute to a club that was on course to achieve something truly special.
Some things are bigger than football. And if there’s something we can take away from this tragedy, it’s how everything that drives this sport that we love – the passions, the rivalries, the burning desire for success and silverware – all fades into complete insignificance in the name of human compassion and solidarity.