SAO PAULO (AP) — Tragedy-hit Chapecoense won Brazil’s second division title on Friday night with defender Alan Ruschel, a survivor of the team’s plane crash in 2016 which killed 19 players, lifting the trophy.
The southern Brazil team was relegated in 2019, three years after the crash in Colombia claimed 71 lives. Three players were among the six survivors.
The crucial goal was a penalty right at the end. Anselmo Ramon made the final score 3-1 in added time, giving Chape the title on goal difference and triggering loud celebrations by fans in cars outside the empty Arena Conda.
Chapecoense’s plane crashed on Nov. 28, 2016 — en route to the club’s first-ever South American tournament final in Colombia — after it ran out of fuel near Medellin. The club was awarded the Copa Sudamericana title at the request of finalist Atletico Nacional.
Some families of victims of the crash are yet to receive compensation.
Ruschel said the title came despite difficulties that Chape is facing to pay salaries.
“I don’t know whether I will stay or not, but I will take this group with me forever, like I take the group of 2016,” said Ruschel, who struggled to return to the field after the crash. “People have to respect me, behind the soccer player there is a human being.”
Former Chapecoense player Neto, who survived the crash and is now one of the club’s directors, also celebrated the title and the return of the team to Brazil’s first division.
“Many thought Chapecoense was going to close,” Neto said. “I dedicate the title to the families of all teammates that are gone.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports