Tears in football due to victories, and more commonly, defeats are not unknown but beyond that it is unusual to see grown men cry-. However, before the 52nd Gamper Trophy game in front of 64,000 fans, Helio Zamper Neto just could not hold them back. Alongside Jackson Ragnar Follman and captain Alan Ruschel, the only one to take part later in the game, the goalkeeper listened as the crowd and his fellow professionals paid tribute.
All three players survived the tragic plane crash that decimated the Chapecoense club ahead of a South American Cup semi-final in Colombia. A total of 71 people lost their lives on 28 November 2016.
The game at Camp Nou was one that will not be remembered for the result. The 5-0 win for the blaugranes was the last thing on everyone’s mind. The president, coach and players from Chapecoense all showed their gratitude ahead of the game for FC Barcelona’s support. The invitation for the club from Chapecó to play in the traditional preseason fixture was accompanied by a series of tributes before and after the game. The most symbolic being the honourary kick off from the three survivors just before the game with Camp Nou applauding their courage and determination.
The emotional occasion did not passed unnoticed around the world in the media. German newspaper Bild’s headline read: “The survivors celebrate their return against Messi,” whilst Italian sports paper Tuttosport called it “the happiest of defeats for Chapecoense.”
The Brazilian media also followed events closely with Lance! Talking of a “historic evening of tributes” and Extra highlighting “Chapecoense received five star treatment at Camp Nou.”