Chapecoense's Caio Júnior, the coach who turned fairytales into reality
Editor's Note: This is a translation from ESPN Brazil: Caio Júnior, o técnico que fez contos de fadas virarem realidade
Paraná were reaching the top after barely 17 years of existence. The club's 0-0 draw with Sao Paulo saw them clinch fifth place in the Campeonato Brasileiro 2006 and reach the Copa Libertadores for the first time in history.
It was a big feat for any Brazilian team, but a gigantic one for a club as modest as Paraná, who counted among their most treasured prizes two Serie B titles (1992 and 2000) and seven state championships (from 1991 to 2006).
The man at the helm was Caio Júnior, a three-time Gauchao champion with Gremio and state champion with Internacional as a player. After winning as a footballer, he was set to shine as a manager.
But Júnior barely had time to write a few brief lines in his latest fairytale. At 51, he and his players did not get a chance to write a conclusion. Júnior, along with most of his team, died in the tragic plane crash that killed 71 people and left six survivors. However, what's certain is that the lines they did write will forever have their place in Brazilian football history.
Júnior, 41 in 2006, would not renew his managerial contract with Paraná, and therefore would not play a role in the club's Copa Libertadores run the following year (in which they would lose out to Libertad in the quarterfinals). Instead, the coach signed with Palmeiras.
From there, Júnior continued to manage in Brazilian football's front row, working with Goiás, Flamengo, Botafogo, Gremio, Bahia, Vitoria and Criciúma. However, his success would be short-lived. In 2011, after seeing his Botafogo team excel in the Brasileirao for a while, he was fired following a negative run.
It is believed that Brazil's biggest football figures are destined to shine abroad and Júnior was testament to this sentiment. In Qatar, he became a national champion with Al-Gharafa in 2009-10 and won the Sheikh Tamim's Cup and Qatari Stars Cup, also in 2009. He then went on to take the UAE President's Cup in 2012 with Al Jazira Club and the Arabian Gulf Cup with Al-Shabaab in 2014-15.
After over 10 years of successes as a coach, Júnior made headlines once again when he was invited to take the reins at Chapecoense in 2016 in place of Guto Ferreira, who was sent to Bahia. A new fairytale was about to be written.
Júnior continued an impressive process with Chapecoense and went to new levels. In their third year among the elite of Brazilian football -- Chapecoense was founded in 1973 -- the Santa Catarina club, which was 15th in the Brazilian Serie A in 2014 and 14th in 2015, finished ninth in an impeccable season in the first division.
With a passionate fan base that had resigned itself to Serie D games for seven years, Chapecoense beat historic clubs like Junior de Barranquilla, Independiente and San Lorenzo in order to advance to the Copa Sudamericana finals -- the first time a team from the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina reached the decider of an international tournament. Chapecoense defeated the biggest champion in Copa Libertadores history to get there, and had one of the most fascinating runs in Latin American football history.