Brazil’s Chapecoense won 2-1 against Colombian side Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana on Tuesday. The emotional game was the first time the two sides met since a tragic plane crash in November killed all but three of the Brazilian squad, before the clubs contested the final of the Copa Sudamericana.
The match dubbed as a “gratitude game” was played in the Arena Conda stadium, Chapeco, in Brazil’s Santa Catarina state and included fireworks and memorials to those who died in the November crash.
The three surviving players — Alan Ruschel, Jakson Follmann and Neto — were presented to the crowd during a pregame ceremony which also included fireworks.
Chapecoeonse took the lead through a penalty kick from Reinaldo at the 23-minute mark. The Colombian club then leveled in the second half with Macnelly Torres, which was met by applause by the home crowd.
At the 71st minute, the stadium erupted in a minute-long applause for the 71 victims who were killed in the crash, which is becoming a tradition at home games. Substitute Luiz Otavio then sealed the win for the Brazilian’s through a headed goal in the 74th minute.
In November, Chapecoense was on route to Medellin, Colombia to play in the biggest match of the club’s history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana. The plane crashed killing 71 of 77 passengers including 19 players and 24 club members.
Authorities determined that the flight was overloaded and ran out of fuel before crashing outside of Medellin. The club was posthumously awarded the Copa Sudamericana title at the request of the Colombian club.
Atletico Nacional was given a warm greeting when they touched down in Brazil on Monday, with the team plane welcomed with an arch of water jets. Chapecoense fans then cheered the visitors from the airport to their hotel.
“Chapeco outdid itself. We are far from home and yet received like heroes ... a continental final and total brothers. There are no words to express our gratitude,” the Colombian team said on their website.
After the tragedy, Chapecoense was offered special privileges, such as the free loan of players and immunity from being relegated from Brazil’s top league, but for the most part has opted to build up a new squad themselves.
So far the club has signed 25 new players and are top of the Santa Catarina state championship and unbeaten in their last five games. Chapecoense will now travel to Medellin for the second leg of the on May 10.