Football

Chapecoense down but not out

Chapecoense vow to rebuild team as other Brazilian clubs offer help

Chapecoense have vowed to get back on their feet and play again next season after a plane crash in Colombia wiped out almost the entire squad.

Colombia's worst air disaster in two decades killed all but six people.

The Brazilian team were flying to Medellin to face Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana - South America's equivalent of the Europa League - which was scheduled for this morning (Singapore time).

SURVIVORS

According to Chapecoense spokesman Andrei Copetti, three of the five survivors were players - defender Alan Ruschel, reserve goalkeeper Jackson Follmann and centre back Helio Neto.

Goalkeeper Danilo Padilha died on the way to hospital.

Jackson had to have his right leg amputated, said the San Vicente Foundation Hospital outside Medellin.

Helio is in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs. Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spine surgery.

Tragically, manager Caio Junior, who died in the crash, said he would "die happy" upon leading his club to the Copa Sudamericana final after a 0-0 second leg draw with San Lorenzo last week.

The club's vice-president Ivan Tozzo told Brazil's Globoesporte website that he was determined to rebuild Chapecoense and play in the Brazilian league again next year.

"We are going to have to restructure the club, sign new players, hold lots of meetings and have lots of patience to keep going in the Brasileiro, a tournament that is very important to us," Tozzo said.

"We intend on continuing next year."

His task of fielding a team was made easier after Brazil's leading football clubs 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.

"It is the minimum gesture of solidarity that is within our reach at this point in time, but it is borne of the sincerest desire to reconstruct this institution and that part of Brazilian football that was lost today," said a joint-statement.

Meanwhile, Atletico Nacional called on football authorities to hand the Copa Sudamericana title to their opponents as a tribute.

A statement on the club's website read: "Atletico Nacional ask Conmebol that the Copa Sudamericana title be awarded to the Chapecoense Football Association as a laurel in honour of their great loss and a posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal accident that has left our sport in mourning.

"Chapecoense will forever be the champions of the Sudamericana Cup 2016."

The BAe 146 charter plane carrying the team went down about 10.15 pm on Monday night with 72 passengers and a crew of nine on board.

The aircraft had reported electrical problems and declared an emergency minutes earlier as it neared its destination, Medellin airport officials said.

However, a Colombian military source said: "It is very suspicious that despite the impact there was no explosion.

"That reinforces the theory of the lack of fuel."

The same plane was used two weeks ago to fly the Argentine national football team - with Lionel Messi on board - to San Juan, Argentina, for a World Cup qualifying match, according to aviation specialist tracking sites. - WIRE SERVICES.

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