Chapecoense is stepping on foreign soil once again.
On Monday, exactly 98 days after a plane crash killed most of Chapecoense’s squad, the Verdao took its first international flight since the tragedy and arrived in Venezuela for a game against Zulia in the Copa Libertadores. According to ESPN FC, a total of 23 players and personnel travelled from Chapeco, Brazil, with the journey including layovers in Sao Paulo and Panama.
“After everything that has happened we must continue as a club, I think it is what our (deceased) players would have wanted,” Tulio de Melo, a forward for Chapecoense, said. “We know what the other players have done for this club and now we are going to play in our first Copa Libertadores match. For us this is very important.”
Plinio David De Nes, Chapecoense’s president, echoed De Melo’s comments, saying: “We are very happy to be able to return to our normal activities which is the practice of football. And here we are with great satisfaction and great joy. And we have been received with so much human warmth here by the representatives of the governor of Zulia state.
“And to all the local athletes, a great hug from us, of the Chape. The Chape are a team who are very proud to participate, for the first time, in the Copa Libertadores. We are going to face a very tough team which has a lot of courage, Zulia.”
The group-stage match between Zulia and Chapecoense will be the Verdao’s first outside Brazil since LaMia Flight 2933 crashed into the mountains near Medellin, Colombia. The air disaster took the lives of 71 people, including 19 members of the club and 20 journalists joining the team for the first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana. Among the six survivors were Neto, who is miraculously walking without crutches, Alan Ruschel, who required surgery on his spine, and Jackson Follman, who had part of his right leg amputated.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Chapecoense signed 22 players, including a number of footballers who were promoted from the Verdao’s youth team. The date with Zulia will be the Brazilian club’s debut in the Copa Libertadores.