Seven weeks later, life moves forward.
The Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense played its first match on Saturday since the crash of LaMia flight 2933 — a charter plane bound for the Copa Sudamericana finals in Medellin on Nov. 28, killing 71 of the plane’s 77 passengers, including 19 of the team’s 22 players.
The three players who survived the crash were in attendance when Chapecoense faced Brazilian league champion Palmeiras in a friendly in Chapeco, and each of them took part in an emotional pre-match ceremony in front of 20,000 fans.
“I will be here to give support to the players that come,” defender Neto said on Friday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s not easy to represent all those who died, but I want to be fit to play so I can be more than a symbol. I want to make a real contribution.”
Chapecoense goalkeeper Follmann, one of the three players that survived the crash almost two months ago, is comforted by a teammate during a Sudamericana trophy award ceremony prior to a match against Palmeiras on Saturday.
Neto lifted the Copa trophy – which was awarded to Chapecoense with opponent Atletico Nacional’s approval after the November match was cancelled – and family members of the victims were awarded medals on Saturday.
Neto recently took his first steps after spending more than 10 hours in the wreckage before he was rescued. Indeed, he hopes to play again, adding: “If I didn’t believe I could recover, I will get depressed.”
Goalkeeper Jakson Follmann had part of his right leg amputated, and reportedly is considering accepting a position on the team’s coaching staff. He told doctors during his recovery “I choose life over the leg.”
Winger Alan Ruschel also has said he “will do all that I can to play again” and expects to be back on the pitch within six months. In a tearful press conference this week, he admitted he has no recollection of the crash.
“I was in the front seats, then I changed with a friend of ours that is now gone,” Ruschel said. “I am pretty sure that that made me survive, because our goalkeeper Jakson Follmann was next to me and he also escaped. It was Follmann who told me to sit next to him, so I guess he also saved my life. I will have to live with this feeling forever.”
Chapecoense player Helio Neto, one of the survivors of the LaMia airplane crash in Colombia, arrives for a physiotherapy session at the Arena Conda stadium in southern Brazil on Thursday.
(NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Like Marshall University football, which lost its entire 75-person traveling party in a 1970 plane crash, and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Russian team in the Kontinental Hockey League that perished in a 2011 crash, Chapecoense has decided to continue on.
Its 2017 slate includes remaining in Brazil’s first division and participating for the first time in the Copa Libertadores, considered South America’s premier tournament. The club also will host several marquee friendlies to raise funds, featuring one against FC Barcelona.
Another crash survivor, radio broadcaster Rafael Henzel, also was in attendance on Saturday. In fact, he called the match.
Only three of the 22 players survived after their plane crashed out outside Medellin, Colombia on Nov. 29.
“When I woke up at the crash site, I became aware of what had happened. Initially, I thought I was dreaming but then, shortly after, you start to realize that the plane had crashed,” said Henzel, who spent 20 days in the hospital with seven broken ribs and other injuries, including a broken leg. “The stairway at the Arena Conda is very steep, but I have extra motivation to be in that stadium again and see players wearing our shirt, the fans.
“It won’t be that stairway that will stop me.”
OUTTA BOTTE EXPERIENCE
Alex Rodriguez will host his own reality show entitled “Back in the Game,” CNBC announced this week, which will aim to provide advice to retired athletes experiencing financial problems.
Which happens first for A-Rod, induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame or a lifetime achievement award at the Emmys?
– The only thing missing from the Yankees pushing their prospects all week was one of those goofy slogans the Mets used to trot out, like “Catch the Rising Stars.”
– Westbrook is unbelievable, but folks really get worked up over who gets voted in to start an All-Star Game?
– The Nets scored 143 points on Friday night in New Orleans to end an 11-game losing streak. Yes, a rare big and easy win for them.
– Picking the Pats and the Pack on Sunday. Who ya got?
One day after the inauguration, here are my Top-5 sports moments by U.S. presidents:
5. TAFT’S FIRST “FIRST PITCH”
President William H Taft throws out the first pitch at a Yankees game in 1910.
(Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)
4. FORD’S FOOTBALL CAREER
3. OBAMA MENTORS STEPH CURRY
2. REAGAN AS THE GIPPER
1. GWB’S PERFECT STRIKE AFTER 9/11
Source: Ny Daily News