Chapecoense beat relegation a year on from tragic plane accident
Chapecoense beat Vitoria on Thursday night to retain their place in Brazil's top division next season, almost a year after having to rebuild the squad following the tragic plane accident that killed most of their team.
The Chapeco-city based club won 2-1 at home against Vitoria to climb to 10th in the Campeonato Brasileiro standings, eight points clear of the relegation zone with three games remaining. They have taken 47 points from 35 games.
Ponte Preta and Vitoria are 16th and 17th in the standings respectively and level on 39 points. They square off in the last round, which means Chapecoense are safe even if they were to lose their remaining games.
The players celebrated after Thursday's win in the changing room, chanting: "Vaaaamos, vamos Chapeee!!!" -- a video reminiscent of the one that was made by the team that had reached the Copa Sudamericana final before last year's accident.
Tulio de Melo, who scored the winner on Thursday, told Lance: "We needed to win this game and it feels like mission accomplished. It wasn't an easy situation that we picked up at the club at the beginning of the year.
"We all know of the great tragedy that happened. We had to draw strength from deep down to get it done this season. The main aim of our team, which was to remain in Serie A, is accomplished."
On Nov. 29, 2016, Chapecoense were travelling to play in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional when their jet carrying players, club officials and journalists crashed near the Colombian city of Medellin. Only six people survived while 71 perished.
"I want to dedicate this to all the families of those that left us," De Melo said. "One cannot forget that the biggest reason people were here today was because of a great tragedy. I feel the duty of having left Chapecoense at least in the place it was last year. It's the least they deserved, the least their families deserve."
Thursday's victory was a double celebration for Chapecoense as goalkeeper Jakson Follmann, one of the survivors who had his leg amputated following the crash, returned to training on Thursday.
The club tweeted a photograph of the 25-year-old, who has a prosthetic leg, making a save during Thursday's session with the message: "Follmann makes his first training session with the ball... What a moment!"
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.