Chapecoense, the Brazilian football club torn apart by the plane crash which killed 76 people in Colombia, could be loaned players for free and avoid relegation for the next three seasons in order to assist their rebuilding process. Just three members of the squad which was travelling to play the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional survived the plane coming down in the mountains near Medellin.
Brazilian President Michel Temer has declared three days of national mourning, while the incident has provoked an outpouring of tributes from across football including from former Brazil captain Neymer and 2002 World Cup winner Ronaldinho. However, the greatest tribute perhaps of all has been paid by Chapecoense's domestic rivals who want to help the club return to their former glory.
A joint-statement, published by UOL, read on behalf of 10 clubs including Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Santos has outlined plans to loan the grief-stricken Chapecoense players free of charge. The teams, the majority of which hail from Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, have also appealed to the Brazilian Football Association to make the Santa Catarina side exempt from relegation for the next three seasons as they attempt to recover from the tragic events.
The Brazil FA are yet to respond to the request but the clubs add in the statement that the nature of goodwill would be "a minimal gesture of solidarity" in an effort of helping the "reconstruction of this institution and part of Brazilian football that was lost". Alan Luciano Ruschel, Jakson Ragnar Follmann and Hélio Hermito Zampier have been identified as the players to have survived the crash, while the remainder of their teammates perished. The squad were on route to Columbia to play the biggest game in the club's 43-year history in the Copa Sudamericana final – the second tier continental competition in South America – chasing the club's first piece of major silverware.
Though the match will not go ahead, Chapocoense could yet be awarded the trophy after an appeal to the South American Football Confederation. Atletico Nacional, opponents in the final, have requested to the governing body that the Santa Catarina club be presented with the prize as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragedy. Conmebol have yet to confirm if the request has been granted.
"Pain overwhelms our hearts and invades our thinking in mourning," a statement on behalf of Nacional player Gilberto Garcia read, according to The Telegraph. "It has been unfortunate hours in which we have been dismayed by news that we never wanted to hear.
"The accident of our football brothers, Chapecoense, will mark us for life and will leave an indelible mark on Latin-American and world football. All this has been completely unexpected, that's why the pain. They were all footballers, technical staff, journalists and crew, people with many dreams, that's why the tears.
"After being very worried about the human part we thought about the competitive aspect and we want to publish this statement in which Atletico Nacional ask Conmebol to give the title of Copa Sudamericana be given to the Chapecoense as an honorary award for this great loss, and in posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal accident that impute our sport. For our part, and forever, Chapecoense are champions of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana."