Chapecoense, the Brazilian team on board the plane that has crashed in Colombia, were in the middle of a fairytale season when the tragedy struck
Chapecoense, the Brazilian team on board the plane that has crashed in Colombia, were in the middle of a fairytale season before the tragedy struck.
This should have been the most glorious week in the history of the club. Associao Chapecoense de Futebol, relative small fry in the ecosystem of Brazilian football, were flying to Colombia to take part in their first continental final when the plane crashed carrying 81 people, 76 of whom have died.
The mood in the camp had been buoyant and for good reason: Chapecoense had seen off strong opponents in the previous rounds and had been playing with such grit that even a two-leg meeting with a strong Atltico Nacional side held little fear.
It was going to be an occasion to saviour, at the end of another season of achievement. Alongside their endeavours in the Copa Sul-Americana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League), Chape have already secured their highest finish in the top flight, clambering above clubs with more illustrious back stories and far greater financial resources for the third year in a row since promotion.
This is a club that only came into existence in the 70s, the result of a merger between two amateur teams. They quickly enjoyed success, winning the local state championship within five years of their founding, but remained a regional concern until recently, when their ascent through the divisions captured the imagination of Brazilians.
From their nadir in 2008, when they did not qualify for the fourth division of Brazils national league, Chapecoense have risen up the pyramid with every passing year: third in Srie D; seventh, fifth and third in Srie C; second in Srie B; 15th, 14th and with one game of the 2016 remaining, ninth in Srie A.