Brazilian coach's son forgets passport, cheats death
(Right) Matheus Saroli and Caio Junior
Matheus Saroli, whose father, 51, was one of the victims of the tragic crash, got saved -- thanks to his forgotten passport.
For the players on the humble Brazilian club, these were going to be the games of their lives.
Chapecoense was having the best season in its 43-year history, heading to the first of two matches in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the continent's No. 2 club tournament.
It all ended suddenly Monday night on a muddy Colombian hillside. Their chartered aircraft crashed south of Medellin, killing 71 of the 77 people aboard, including most of the team. Three players were among the survivors.
But one man had luck by his side. Matheus Saroli, whose father Caio Junior, 51, was one of the victims of the tragic crash, got saved -- thanks to his forgotten passport.
Saroli said in a Facebook post, "Friends, my brother and my mother are all well. We ask that we are given a little privacy, especially to my mother, and thank all of those sending messages. I was in Sao Paulo today and didn't board the flight because I had forgotten my passport. We are strong, we are going to get past this. Thank you everyone."
The tragedy stunned the southern city of Chapeco and its 200,000 residents, and fans gathered in silence Tuesday to mourn outside the team's small green-and-white concrete stadium.
"The city is very quiet," businessman Cecilio Hans said. "People will only believe once the bodies start to arrive."
On social media, haunting last photos showed the smiling players boarding the flight to Colombia for the first of two matches against Atletico Nacional.
Brazilian President Michel Temer is declaring three days of official mourning, soccer great Pele called it a "tragic loss," and Brazilian champion Palmeiras asked the country's football confederation for permission to wear Chapecoense's jersey in its last match of the season.
Around the world, the sport paused to remember the victims.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have held a minute of silence before their practice sessions. France's top two leagues said there would be a minute's silence at Tuesday night's games, and defending League One champion Paris Saint-Germain also tweeted a photo of its players and staff standing in silent tribute.
Medellin-based Atletico Nacional said it was asking the South American soccer confederation to give the Copa Sudamericana title to Chape as a tribute to the players who died.
In addition, some of Brazil's top clubs said they want to give players to Chape on a free loan for the 2017 season. They also say the club should not be relegated to the second division for three years as it recovers from the disaster.
"The dream is not over. We will fight back when it's time," said Chape's acting club president Gelson Della Costa.
"Now it's time to take care of the families," he said.