Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense has been awarded the Copa Sudamericana championship trophy a week after most of its players died in a horrific plane crash en route to that the tournament final.
The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said in a statement Monday that the team from southern Brazil will be given the trophy with all the “sportive and economic privileges” that go with winning the championship.
That means Chapecoense will get $2 million in prize money and qualify for other tournaments as the champs of the Copa Sudamericana. The soccer team will have to rebuild after losing most of its players in the crash, but other teams in Brazil have already promised to provide Chapecoense with players for a couple seasons.
Soccer commentators from around Latin America praised CONMEBOL's announcement, while other teams sent congratulations to the Brazilian club.
“Finally CONMEBOL makes a brilliant decision,” said Mexican soccer commentator David Faitelson.
“In a game full of embarrassing incidents, this gesture strengthens our love for the sport,” wrote Colombian journalist Felix de Bedout.
Kmito, a cartoonist in Argentina reacted with this drawing.
The idea of awarding the cup to Chapecoense was first proposed by Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club that was going to play the Brazilians in the final. Fans expressed their support for Nacional's petition following the crash, and repeated the call during a tribute ceremony in honor the fallen Brazilian players. But CONMEBOL had remained quiet on the issue until today.
One of the concerns about awarding the cup to Chapecoense without playing the final match was that it violated CONMEBOL's contracts with television networks that had acquired broadcasting rights for the tournament.
But the soccer federation determined that “sports values” prevailed over commercial interests this time.
Atletico Nacional, was awarded a special $1 million prize for fair play.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.