Two Brazilian footballers in Hong Kong have paid tribute to friends who lost their lives in the Chapecoense team’s air crash.
Hong Kong Pegasus midfielder Joao Emir mourned a “friend and brother” Josimar who was among the 71 victims and from the same town, Pelotas, in Rio Grande de Sul.
And former Pegasus and South China coach Ricardo Rambo, who is also from the same state, was in shock at the death of the team’s coach and many others who were friends of friends.
“The world of football woke up sad today, and even more to find out my friend / brother Josimar left us that way,” wrote Joao Emir on Facebook, with a picture of him and Josimar in the dressing room.
“Tears and sorrow catch us by surprise but I believe you’ll be taking care of your friends and family from up there my friend.
“Miss you always! A kiss, brother!”
Thirty-year-old Josimar was one of the team’s most experienced players after stints with top teams such as Palmeiras and Internacional.
Both he and Joao Emir had played for the same club, Brasil de Pelotas.
That club was involved in a tragedy of its own in 2009 when their team bus slid down a ravine, leaving three dead and several players injured.
Josimar, then at Internacional, requested to be loaned back to his former club to help them, according to Brazilian reports.
— Chapecoense (@ChapecoenseReal) 29 de novembro de 2016
Rambo, one of the best-known Brazilian football men in Hong Kong having been in the city since 1998, admitted he was in shock at the tragedy.
“It’s really sad , I still can’t believe what’s happened,” he said.
“Coach Caio Junior I know from my time playing. We played once together. Many others were friends of friends.
“Young talents lost their life in a tragedy like that. They were all happy to be in an important final.
“Football is all united all over the world in thought of all their families.”
Chapecoense had fought their way up from the fourth division in recent seasons and were on their way to face Colombia’s Atletico Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana final.
Tributes poured in from around football, with the world’s top clubs and players posting condolences on social media.
— Libby (@VodkaKix) November 30, 2016
Brazilian clubs announced that they would loan players to Chapecoense without fees next season and asked that they be exempt from relegation, while Atletico Nacional requested the Sudamericana trophy be given to the club.
Expressions of grief poured in as South America’s federation canceled all scheduled matches in a show of solidarity, Real Madrid and Barcelona interrupted training for a minute’s silence and Argentine legend Diego Maradona sent his condolences to the victims’ families over Facebook.
Wembley, Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Eiffel Tower and Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue were among landmarks lit in Chapecoense’s green to pay tribute.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 29, 2016
And Anfield rose in a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before Liverpool’s League Cup tie with Leeds United.
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) November 29, 2016
Brazilian star Neymar posted a picture of Chapecoense’s logo with the hashtag #ForcaChape that was trending worldwide on Twitter.
All-time legend Pele made a similar post.
Brazilian football is in mourning. It is such a tragic loss. My sincere condolences to the families of the deceased. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/jfoTMUBWtN
— Pelé (@Pele) November 29, 2016
Chapecoense striker Tiaguinho, 22, was set to become a father for the first time – a video his teammates made surprising him with the news went viral after the crash.
¡No puede ser Dios mío! Al jugador Thiaguinho su esposa le había mandado esta sorpresa de que iba a ser padre. pic.twitter.com/vpcyIeRuQz
— Wilson Ganem (@WillyGanem) November 29, 2016
Only three Chapecoense players are believed to have survived the crash: left back Alan Ruschel, defender Helio “Neto” Zampier and reserve goalkeeper Jakson Follmann. The latter had to have a leg amputated.
Pictures on social media from the Chapecoense dressing room showed stunned players who did not travel struggling to cope with the tragedy.
One player, the son of the team’s manager revealed on social media that he did not travel because he forgot his passport. His father was among the victims.
Clubs across Brazil put aside old rivalries to show their solidarity with the stricken side.
Even teams whose most hated rivals play in green turned their stadiums and their web sites green on Tuesday night. Corinthians, who once looked at the possibility of dying their pitch a different colour because Palmeiras play in green, turned their home page a bright shade of emerald.
Additional reporting: Reuters, AP, AFP