On 28 November 2016, LaMia Flight 2933, which was carrying the Chapecoense football team to the 2016 Copa Sudamericana finals, crashed during its descent into Medellin. 71 of the 77 people on board died. Remarkably, six people survived the wreckage, including three Chapecoense players.
It was meant to be the club’s first appearance at the finals in their 44-year history, but the Copa Sudamericana finals were suspended indefinitely.
In Medellin, instead of the first leg of the final, there was a memorial, attended by 50,000 local supporters. Atletico Nacional’s coach forfeited the title, vowing, “This title belongs to Chapecoense and we will be happy as runners-up. They arrived with a dream. They will leave as legends.”
The challenges to Chapecoense in 2017 were many, way beyond just rebuilding a team, but just 54 days after the disaster Chapecoense played a friendly match against Palmeiras. In a highly charged ceremony, surviving Chapecoense players Jackson Follman, Alan Ruschel and Neto wept as they received the Copa Sudamericana trophy on behalf of their teammates.
Remarkably, on 7 August 2017, Alan Ruschel overcame spinal cord surgery and returned to the field, playing the first 35 minutes of a match against FC Barcelona, before being subbed out and receiving a standing ovation. His determination to return in spite of the odds epitomises the power of the human spirit.
After his dedication to rehab and recovery, Neto returned to football but recently announced his retirement due to ongoing pain caused by the crash. Thanks to his love of the game and the club, the veteran defender is expected to remain at Chapecoense in a different capacity, having a direct role with the team.
Follmann has faced a much sterner challenge after having part of his right leg amputated, but has since taken a role as an ambassador for Chapecoense and has spoken of his ambition to one day compete in the Paralympics.
Winning the Laureus Sporting Moment Awards in 2018, this moment portrays true dedication in overcoming adversity from the players, the supporters and the club.

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