CONMEBOL weighs giving Copa Sudamericana to Chapecoense
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez called Atletico Nacional's proposal to give the Copa Sudamericana 2016 title to Chapecoense "admirable" and said the governing body for South American football will evaluate the offer.
A plane carrying the Brazilian team crashed en route to Medellin on Monday night, killing 71 people and leaving six survivors. The tragedy prompted the Colombian to request that CONMEBOL award the title to their opponents as a gesture of sportsmanship.
Atletico Nacional ended up winning the Copa Libertadores in 2016 and were headed into the Copa Sudamericana final before the tragic Chapecoense plane crash, which killed 71 people and left six survivors.
"It is very admirable, however, now is the time for us to get down to work," Dominguez said on Wednesday upon arrival in Medellin. "We will talk with the leaders in Brazil and Colombia as well as Nacional's front office. I don't know much about it right now but the gesture is honourable. I did not have time to review it yet."
"As soon as we finish our [CONMEBOL] meeting we will make a statement about this subject," he said.
Colombia football federation president Jorge Perdomo agreed with the team's gesture, and added that he would investigate the possibility.
"There is no decision yet because neither CONMEBOL nor our federation have finished studying it," Perdomo told El Tiempo. "Of course it is a noble gesture and it is honourable on the part of Atletico Nacional and Colombian football.
"But it is not yet clear whether a championship can be awarded posthumously -- from the perspective of of rules and statutes. I am not entirely sure that the rules permit it."
Perdomo added that CONMEBOL will have to decide whether the gesture would affect previously made commercial agreements.
"The Copa Sudamericana has TV and sponsorship obligations and CONMEBOL could potentially be contractually obligated to hold the final. It could have an economic effect," he said.
The Copa Sudamericana is South America's secondary international club competition, below the Copa Libertadores, involving teams from across the continent. The final is played across two legs, with each team hosting one leg at their home stadium.
Chapecoense were in the middle of an unprecedented season. They joined Brazil's top flight in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Sudamericana final after defeating two of Argentina's top teams, San Lorenzo and Independiente, as well as Colombia's Junior.
On Wednesday night, thousands of white-clad supporters of Medellin's Atletico Nacional club jammed the stands of the 40,000-seat stadium where the team had been scheduled to play the first Copa Sudamericana finals match against Chapecoense.
With the words "Eternal Champions'' blazing on a big screen, the normally combative Atletico fans put sportsmanship first and paid tribute to the rival team, which they've urged be named the champion.
The names of each of the 71 victims of Monday night's crash was read aloud while a military band played taps and Black Hawk helicopters that helped in the rescue operations that pulled six people alive from the wreckage flew overhead.
In the stands, mourners stood for a minute of silence holding candles and signs reading "We're all Chapecoense" and "Soccer has no borders.''
The emotional high point of the tribute in Medellin was an address by Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra, who travelled to the city along with a military cargo plane to help repatriate the bodies of the mostly Brazilian victims.
He highlighted the fact that both teams shared the same green and white jersey colours, a sign to him of unity amid tragedy.
"We Brazilians will never forget the way Colombians lived as their own this terrible, terrible disaster that disrupted Chapecoense's dream," the normally stone-faced political veteran said while wiping away tears.
"You offer us enormous comfort -- a light in the darkness when all of us are trying to understand the unexplainable."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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