Chapecoense's Santana: 'In every life I'll get to live, I'll love you all the same'
Editor's Note: This is a translation from ESPN Brazil: Cleber Santana, o capitão de Chapecó: 'Em quantas vidas eu viver, em todas eu vou amar você'
The sporting world is mourning. In what is now being considered the biggest tragedy in world football history, a chartered plane carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense crashed Monday en route to Medellin, Colombia, for the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana finals, killing 71 people and leaving six survivors.
Among the deceased is Cleber Santana, an experienced player with tenures at some of Brazilian football's biggest clubs and in Europe, including a stint at Atlético Madrid. Santana was also Chapecoense's captain.
Born on June 27, 1981 in Abreu e Lima, Pernambuco, the midfielder started his professional career with Sport Club do Recife in 2001 and stayed with the team until 2003. Then, he played a full season with Bahia side Vitoria, before leaving to experience football outside of Brazil for the first time.
In 2005, Santana featured with Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol. A year later, he returned to Brazil to play with Santos. He made a name for himself in local football circuits with the latter, playing for the team that clinched the Campeonato Paulista during consecutive seasons in 2006-07.
After he left Santos, Santana went abroad again. This time, he played in Spain with Atlético Madrid after completing a €6 million move. He had a somewhat lacklustre stint with Atleti from mid-2007 to 2008, despite the club's return to the Champions League.
During his time with Atlético, he made friends with current Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who has expressed his solidarity with the fateful Santa Catarina team and his old friend from the Atleti days.
Descansa en Paz amigo. pic.twitter.com/TclUIsuPLx- David De Gea (@D_DeGea) 29 de noviembre de 2016
Santana was soon sent on a loan to Mallorca, where he scored five goals in 32 games -- two of which came in victories over La Liga powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. He returned to Atlético the following season but did not feature.
He moved back to Brazil with Sao Paulo in 2010, where he remained until his loan transfers to Atlético Paranaenense and Flamengo. Upon the completion of his Sao Paulo contract, he signed on with Flamengo with limited success, thus commencing his turn in Santa Catarina football.
Santana played with Avaí for two seasons and Criciúma in 2014-15. Since 2015, he has been a part of the Chapecoense squad and has come to identify with the team and their passionate fan base.
The midfielder was about to finish his second season with Chapecoense before the crash, with 65 games and three goals to his name this season. Not only was he one of the club's most experienced players, he was the team captain -- the man who would have lifted the Copa Sudamericana trophy first had they won it.
On Instagram, there's a picture of the athlete with a caption that sums up the feeling of Chapecoense athletes and their fans. Santana has become a club symbol.
"In every life I'll get to live, I'll love you all the same. #PartiuFazerHistoria (He went out to make history) #NossoCapitao (Our Captain) #MelhorIdolo (Our best Idol)," reads the post.
Santana leaves his wife and two children behind, all three based in Chapecó.