Sometimes there are no words. Nothing that can ever truly encompass the gamut of emotions felt after a tragedy such as the one the world woke up to involving Brazilian football side Associação Chapecoense.
Having enjoyed a recent fairy-tale rise to Brazil’s top division, the team were on a plane heading to the biggest match in their history - the final of the Copa Sudamericana – when it crashed into a remote 11,000ft hillside, killing 71 on-board including nine crew and journalists, leaving just six survivors – three players, a journalist, two crew members.
And yet, no sooner had Brazilian President Michel Temer announced three days of national mourning, the rest of the world soon let it know that they weren’t alone in their grief, showing its support in all kinds of lump-in-the-throat ways...
Colombia’s Atletico Nacional have not only asked to concede the final so Chapecoense can be officially declared champions, but even asked the supporters to attend the fixture tonight out of respect, suggesting they wear all white and holding a white candle out of respect for the victims.
Domestically, Brazil’s leading club sides made some touching gestures of their own by pledging to loan players to Chapecoense for no fee and ask that the league also safeguard the club against relegation for the next three seasons. Which could prove crucial in cementing the legacy of the club.
By contrast, in the aftermath of 1958’s Munich Air Disaster, when Manchester United, deplete of eight players who died as a result of the plane crash, were forced to cobble together the remaining first-teamers with reserve players or face folding entirely. Despite making the FA Cup Final (losing to Bolton) and recording a famous European Cup win over Milan at Old Trafford, United would win only once more in the league that season.
Founded as recently as 1973, Chapecoense hail from the town of Chapeco, south of Brazil, which has a population of barely over 210,000 – theirs was a true underdog story and the grief was no more palpable last night, than in the town itself, where fans and well-wishers enveloped the home stadium for a mass vigil.
As social media became awash with tributes from clubs and greats of the game, Chapecoense made its own mark to the fallen heroes, changing the club crest from green to monochrome. This bloody lovely illustration, posted by the club late yesterday, highlights their meteoric rise over the past few seasons.
Closer to home, Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona started their Tuesday mornings by holding a minute's silence at the beginning of practice sessions, while similar moments of reflection played out among thousands of spectators attending evening matches across Europe – including last night’s EFL Cup games.
Over at an emotionally charged Anfield, where the home team donned black armbands, Brazilian international Lucas Leiva captained his side to a 2-0 win over Leeds in the league Cup semi-final, admitting later that he found it hard to play for personal reasons: “I have a few people that I played with as a young player, and so it was very hard for me to play tonight because I know a lot of people there.”
Major landmarks across the planet – including Wembley’s famous arch and Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena – were lit up in bright green to mark the tragedy, beacons of hope in a world still coming to terms with the loss of so many.
Still reeling from the news, current Brazil international Neymar took to Instagram to post these words. Which sum it up better than most eulogies ever could:
“It's impossible to believe this tragedy, impossible to believe what happened, impossible to believe that the plane crashed, impossible to believe that athletes, human beings were on this plane, impossible to believe that these people left their families... Today the world cries, but heaven rejoices in receiving Champions."
And a penny for the thoughts of these non-travelling team members, photographed reacting to news of the crash inside the club’s eerily quiet dressing room. Empty, motionless, poignant, it really does capture the devastating loss within the club.