Despite Chapecoense still mourning its dead after the tragic plane crash, the Brazilian club has already had to begin rebuilding for the future.
November 24th was the biggest day in the history of Chapecoense, after the club reached its first ever international final by drawing 0-0 against San Lorenzo at the Arena Condá, in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana semifinals – having left the Nuevo Gasometro in Argentina with a 1-1 draw, against all odds.
On their way to Colombian capital Medellín to face reigning Libertadores champions Atlético Nacional in the final, the plane crashed leading to the death of 71 passengers out of 77. The six survivors were Neto, Alan Ruschel and Follmann amongst the players, Erwin and Ximena from the crew, as well journalist Rafael Henzel. So, how did the club deal with this tragedy?
The last league game of the Brazilian season against Atlético Mineiro was cancelled, which did not affect the position of either side in the standings. On the other hand, Nacional was quick to ask South American governing body, CONMEBOL, to offer the Sudamericana title to the Brazilian side, to officially qualify for Copa Libertadores 2017, the continent’s equivalent of the Champions League.
Vagner Mancini was appointed to lead the reconstruction of the team ahead of a 2017 season to come, busy with challenges in competitions such as the Primeira Liga, the Brazilian League, the Brazilian Cup and the Copa Libertadores.
Even before the tragedy, Chapecoense was everyone’s second favorite team in Brazil and was considered as an example to follow. The club’s policy always prioritized a low wage ceiling for players, giving chances to youngsters and signing players who play for the shirt, rather than stars with ridiculous demands.
It is therefore no surprise that the club has decided to promote academy players and re-sign former ones to fill the gap. The club president took the humble decision of refusing the Brazilian federation’s offer of immunity to relegation.
— Chapecoense (@ChapecoenseReal) December 22, 2016
It is important to know that clubs like Chapecoense will always find it easier to rebuild a team in comparison with bigger sides. Small clubs with low budgets in Brazil tend to sign players on loan, and are used to losing their best players on a constant basis. And Chapecoense was no different, as most of their players last season were temporary deals or on low wages.
With so many clubs offering to loan players for free, the Santa Catarina outfit will be able to complete its roster by adding them to their academy players. A small – yet very relevant – example is what Juventude did. Several topflight sides were interested in signing rising goalkeeper Elias, but the Série C side refused all financial proposals and decided to loan him to Chape for free.
— Roberto Rivera (@DatitosRivera) December 27, 2016
Besides Elias, the club has already signed the likes of Douglas Grolli, Rossi, Rafael Lima, Dodo and Reinaldo. Mostly on loan or free agents with low wages – just like the Chape philosophy has always been.
It is worth noting that new manager, Mancini, has already lived through a fairy-tale story in 2005 when he won the Brazilian Cup with minnow Paulista side Jundiai. So, can he continue Chape’s own fairy-tale story and rebuild the squad from scratch?
The club’s organized structure might be its most important asset in dealing with all these challenges. Veteran goalkeeper Nivaldo, who was set to play his retirement game in the last league round which was eventually cancelled, did not travel with the team to Colombia and the club has decided to honor him with promotion to a director’s role. He will be playing an important role in the reconstruction phase.
The wish for the whole world that is that Chape comes out victorious from truly tragic circumstances and brings more moments of joy in the future.