In the aftermath of the plane crash in Colombia that wiped out an entire professional soccer team, there is nothing that can be done except for the families and the nation to grieve. But the various gestures being made by their rivals are touching nevertheless.
The plane was carrying Brazilian club side Chapecoense Real to the first of two games to decide the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-biggest club tournament. Based in the city of Chapeco, in southern Brazil, the unsung team was having a Cinderella season after defying the odds to reach the finals. The team’s goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, 31, whose heroic last minute save assured their progression, died on the way to hospital after the crash.
Soccer-mad Brazil declared three days of mourning while their opponents Atletico Nacional, of Medellin, asked for the winning trophy to be awarded to the Brazilians in honour of the dead.
Fellow top division Brazilian sides also showed solidarity by offering loan players to Chapecoense and urging the national federation to give it a three-year stay against relegation while the club gets back on its feet.
Meanwhile the legends of the sport – from Lionel Messi to Pele – sent condolences.
These gestures may seem empty and pointless, but keep in mind that they are gestures worth literally millions of dollars. It’s the equivalent of one team foregoing a Lombardi trophy and Super Bowl championship, and three other teams voluntarily giving up their chance at the big leagues and the subsequent TV revenue shares and advertising revenue that involves.
It won’t bring the Chapecoense players back, but it will ensure they are not quickly forgotten. And it is always inspiring to see basic human decency persevere in the face of tragedy.