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'It's hard to keep going' - Fans flock to stadiums to mourn Chapecoense football team

Fans gathered at stadiums on the hour the team were due to play their cup match.

Brazil Colombia Air Crash Source: AP Photo/Andre Penner

FANS OF BRAZIL’S Chapecoense football club whose team was wiped out in a Colombian air crash crammed into the home stadium late last night for tearful prayers around the empty pitch.

The stadium in Chapeco, southern Brazil, was a solid wall of green as fans and mourners dressed in the team shirt stood shoulder to shoulder.

They gathered at exactly the hour their team, which just a few years ago was in Brazil’s gritty lower leagues, should have been kicking off in Medellin, Colombia against Atletico Nacional for the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana finals.

Brazil Colombia Air Crash Chapecoense soccer players who did not travel with their team on a flight to Colombia that crashed, mourn during a tribute to the crash victims. Source: AP Photo/Andre Penner

Instead of participating in what would have been the biggest match in the club’s history, the team, many of the chief staff, and 20 Brazilian journalists were killed when their charter plane slammed into a mountainside short of the airport late Monday night.

And instead of sitting excitedly in front of televisions to watch the action in Colombia, the people of Chapeco, a provincial city of about 200,000, trooped into their stadium to mourn and join in ecumenical prayer.

Colombia Air Crash Fans of Colombia's Atletico Nacional hold a tribute to members of Brazil's Chapecoense soccer team who died in a plane crash, at Atanasio Girardot stadium where they were to play a game in Medellin, Colombia. Source: AP Photo/Luis Benavides

Players who had not been on the doomed flight, youth academy members, relatives of those killed and throngs upon throngs of ordinary fans joined together, all in the team colors.

There were few dry eyes as a film was projected to pay homage to the dead teammates.

The team had an outsized presence here and its inspiring story of unknowns who rose to take on champions had spread across Brazil.

Brazil Colombia Air Crash Source: AP Photo/Andre Penner

“I think this transcends football. It has become something human. This is why I decided to come and pay my respects for the players who left Chapeco with a dream and who will never be forgotten,” said student Daniel Augusto Barrera (21).

Teacher Aline Fonseca (21) said the sudden deaths of the team members had torn a hole in the community.

“Chapeco is not a big city,” she said.

We would meet (the players) in the street, anywhere. It’s hard to keep going.

“This gathering – they deserved twice as a big a gathering,” said pensioner Nelio Dalbosco (73)

We have to fight to try to rebuild a team that will be as good and to keep going. Life doesn’t stop.

No fuel

Authorities are still investigating what caused the charter flight to crash in the mountains outside Medellin as it carried Cinderella-story team Chapecoense Real to a major match.

A haunting recording aired by Colombian media appeared to hold answers – though officials have not confirmed its authenticity.

Brazil Colombia Air Crash Source: Andre Penner

“Ma’am, LAMIA 2933 has a total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel,” pilot Miguel Quiroga tells the control tower in the recording, minutes before the jet crashed Monday night.

In the tape, the pilot had earlier asked for priority to land due to “fuel problems.”

The request was granted by Medellin’s international airport.

But the control tower then lost contact with the plane, whose fuselage was found plastered on a hillside 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside the city.

© – AFP, 2016

Read: ‘Total failure, electric and fuel’ – Frantic audio between pilot and controllers before fatal air crash

Read: Plane that crashed killing 71 people ‘may have run out of fuel’

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