Week 165 (3 - 9 December 2016)
A clear sign of a community’s strength and resilience is its ability to respond to great and sudden tragedy. When the footballers of the Chapecoense lost their lives in a plane crash on 28 November, the global football community showed its true colours.
Responses started in the club’s home city of Chapecó, with fans gathering at the ground to share their grief. Support quickly spread. Almost immediately, fellow Brazilian teams offered to loan players to Chapecoense in order that the team might be able to finish its season and asked for their immunity from relegation.
The South American football federation, CONMEBOL, declared Chapecoense winners of the final of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana, the match that the ill-fated flight was taking the team to play. Positive reactions have now come from far beyond Brazil or even South America. Barcelona FC, for example, have invited the team to play a friendly at their Nou Camp home, as a fundraiser, and global stars such as Ronaldinho, Juan Román Riquelme and Eidur Gudjohnsen have offered to play for the club.
Manchester United, a club that experienced a similarly awful tragedy in the 1958 Munich air disaster, can offer both hope and invaluable guidance to Chapecoense. The parallels between the two disasters are striking. United in the fifties, much like Chapecoense, they were a team of young, home-grown players on the rise. It was fitting that the current manager and face of the club, Jose Mourinho, offered such an eloquent tribute days after the disaster. In his post-match interview after the West Ham game he spoke of his personal connection to the disaster, where he lost his friend Caio Júnior, the manager of the club. In the coming months, it is certain that Manchester United will be at the forefront of leading a long-term re-building process for Chapecoense.
For those who follow the club, the 19 players who died will be remembered in a redesign of their club’s crest. And for those who follow football, the 19 will be remembered for an outpouring of sincere solidarity. For its visible and vocal reaction to the tragedy, the global football community is JTA’s Communicator of the Week.