Chapecoense is preparing to take the field again, this time the emotional “second favorite team” of many football fans across the world.
The Brazilian club saw just three players survive a massive plane crash when their vehicle ran out of fuel and crashed in Colombia en route to face Atletico Nacional for the Copa Sudamericana crown.
Honored with the title after the tragedy, the reigning champs will play their first match since defeating San Lorenzo in the Copa semifinals.
[ MORE: The latest on Chapecoense’s recovery ]
Chape director Rui Costa — not the longtime Fiorentina, Benfica and Milan player — says the club is taking a lot of players on loan this season in the hopes of surviving relegation. The club rejected proposals that would make them relegation-proof for three seasons.
And the survivors of the crash will have their jersey numbers left open for them, even if one cannot play ever again after requiring a leg amputation. From the BBC:
“No player this season will use the shirts that were worn by Jackson Follmann, Neto or Alan Ruschel,” Costa said.
“More than a tribute, we expect Alan and Neto to come back and wear them. Follmann sadly won’t be able to but he will certainly be back here with us in some capacity.”
Chape finished 11 of 20 teams in Brazil’s Serie A last season.