A tragedy that will never be forgotten

Occasionally in football, something happens that reminds us that the sport we love is exactly that. A sport, played for fun. It is not - contrary to pop culture’s lazy cry - a matter of life and death.


Source: AFP

Granted, it makes up a big part of many of our lives, but there are things we ought to hold dearer. Friends, families, the communities we live in and the societies we’re trying to better every day. 

But sometimes the tentacles of football stretch so far, and so deep, that the impact of an event on the other side of the world will touch us in far greater ways than we could have ever imagined. 

When the initial news came through about the unfolding disaster involving the Chapecoense team on their way to Colombia, I was gripped by the immediate feeling I suspect most of you shared: that sickening dread, your chest tightens and pulse quickens.

You simply hope it is either a false report or a gross misinterpretation of facts (I’ve worked in countless newsrooms - these things can happen). 

But as the minutes and hours ticked on, it was clear that Chapecoense’s disaster was indeed real, incalculable as it was for an ordinary mind to process. 

It is a human tragedy, obviously and primarily, but it is a football one as well.

People are entitled to mourn on both fronts. If you’re on this particular website, reading this piece, I’m guessing the game plays an impossibly large role in your life, too. 

We, the football community, need no excuse to be divided.

It is how we define our weekly existence - the narrative of “us” and “them” is the thread that holds our club and international existence together. 

Sadly, ‘we’ unite all too little to celebrate and commemorate, so hungry are we to analyse the thrilling, intricate minutiae in this supposedly zero-sum game: if somebody wins, there must be a loser. 

Then moments like this happen and that analysis, that obsession, seems both pathetic and trivial. We are forced to take a look at ourselves and our passion. We maybe take a moment to turn around and hold our loved ones that bit closer.
Less than a day after the event, the fate of this season’s Copa Sudamericana final (the South American version of the Europa League) is unclear.

CONMEBOL have suspended the two-legged clash indefinitely against Atletico Nacional. The Colombians, graciously, have declared Chapecoense the champions. 

Some will argue the club should gather themselves with new players to play in memory of the deceased. Others will argue it is impossible to continue.

It is probably too soon to form an opinion either way. 

With only three players surviving the crash, and a handful left at home in Brazil, it is difficult to make any kind of suggestion. My only wish is that the players’ families have the final say. 

For background, Manchester United played out the First Division and European Cup in 1957-1958 after the Munich disaster and Torino played out the Serie A in 1949 after the Superga tragedy (likewise Alianza Lima in 1987).

Precedents exist, but that is no judgement on what should happen from here. 

Touchingly, other Brazilian clubs have offered their players on loan and collectively suggest they should avoid relegation from the top division for the next three seasons.


I hope our A-League clubs can find a way to make a meaningful contribution when the time is right. 

In any event, this is a tragedy that has touched us all, and will continue to affect anyone who loves the game of football. 

There will be a minute's silence at thousands of matches around the world over the next week and rightly so. We are all members of the community that Chapecoense sat right near the top of. 

Whether you knew of the club and players directly or not, if you feel numb today, it is because we have lost members of our own tribe, who simply set out to do the quaint little thing that brings us all so much joy each week. 

May they rest in peace.

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4 min read
Published 30 November 2016 at 10:39am
By Sebastian Hassett