SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The vice-president of Brazilian top flight side Chapecoense has vowed to get the club back on its feet and playing again next year after a plane crash in Colombia wiped out almost the entire squad.
Colombia’s worst air disaster in two decades killed all but five people as the team flew to face Atletico Nacional of Medellin in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final, South America’s equivalent of the Europa League.
Club vice president Ivan Tozzo told Brazil’s Globoesporte website 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.”
The BAe 146 charter plane went down about 10:15 p.m. on Monday night with 68 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.
While talk of football has been muted as fans, players and officials come to terms with the tragedy, starting afresh would not be a new experience for the club.
Chapecoense almost went to the wall at the start of the century but battled back to rise from the fourth to the first division in just five years, including two consecutive promotions in seasons 2012 and 2013.
The small club from Chapeco in southern Brazil will be aided in their comeback by other senior teams, a group of whom called for the club to be exempt from relegation for three years.
In a statement published by several of the country’s top sides, including league champions Palmeiras, club presidents also said they would loan players to help Chapecoense get back playing again.
“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,” the statement said.
Only three of the players who flew north for the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional survived the crash in the mountains outside Medellin.
The offer to help came as clubs across Brazil put aside old rivalries to show their solidarity with the stricken side.
Even teams whose most hated rivals play in green turned their stadiums and their web sites green on Tuesday night.
Corinthians, who once looked at the possibility of dying their pitch a different color because Palmeiras play in green, turned their home page a bright shade of emerald.
Atletico Paranaense overlooked their rivalry with Coritiba to light their stadium green in tribute to the fallen Chapecoense players and staff.
In Rio, the statue of Christ the Redeemer was lit up in green spotlights above the city, while the presidential palace in Brasilia was also bathed in green light.
Editing by Peter Rutherford