Chapecoense are back in action in Brazil despite plane November’s plane crash, but the rebuilding has been a tough, emotional process
Following the tragedy that surrounded the airplane clash last November, Chapecoense are still looking to build their squad ahead of a challenging year ahead, where they will be involved in regional, national as well as continental competitions.
Coach Vagner Mancini has had a very active transfer market so far, recruiting the likes of Fabricio Bruno, Diego Renan, Amaral, Luiz Otavio, Tulio de Melo, Niltinho, Wellington Paulista, Elias and Dodo. The new team will mostly be relying on young players who arrived on free transfers or loan deals from clubs who wanted to help.
The rumors linking moves for Argentina and Brazil national team veterans Riquelme and Ronaldinho Gaucho respectively, have turned out to be nothing more than just press talk. It would have been against Chapecoense’s philosophy to invest in players based on their reputation rather than what they can contribute to the team in comparison with the wages they are paid.
On Saturday January 21, Chapecoense played their first game after the tragedy – which happened to be against Brazil’s reigning champions Palmeiras – with the match eventually ending in a 2-2 draw.
The friendly featured emotional moments from Chape players who officially received their Sudamericana title, with the presence of the only four footballers who survived the airplane crash. It must have felt heart-breaking to be crowned champions in the absence of their teammates who worked so hard to make this dream come true.
Chapecoense will be participating in the Primeira Liga – a championship organized by several Brazilian clubs, independently from the CBF, with the goal of expressing their anger as to how the regional championships are being run the governing Brazilian football federation. The adventure starts this week, and with the presence of strong sides like Gremio, Fluminense, Flamengo and Atlético Mineiro, it’s highly unlikely that Chape cause an upset. As for the Campeonato Catarenense, which is the equivalent of the state league of Santa Catarina, the odds for Chapecoense will be stronger to reach the final stages due to lesser competition.
The Brazilian league starts as usual in May, and after having turned down the offer of immunity from relegation, the main objective will be to avoid it with actual results, as realistically speaking, the team doesn’t look strong enough to finish in the top half, at least for the moment.
On the other hand, the most exciting challenge is perhaps the participation in Copa Libertadores. The adventure kicks off in March, as Chape will be in Group 7 with the likes of Nacional, Lanus and Zulia. Qualification seems unlikely, but this club has taught us that, if anything, never say never.
An eventful year is ahead of the second favorite team for almost everyone in Brazil. They can count on the support of millions, so let’s hope they give us another surprise.