“Chapecoense is more than a club,” goalkeeper Artur Moraes told the media after training at the Ciutat Esportiva on Sunday afternoon. “There is a lot of feeling behind the team."
“We are here to enjoy a game against one of the best clubs in the world” adds striker Wellington Silva, one of the fifteen members of the squad that trained in Barcelona today ahead of the Joan Gamper Trophy match (Monday at 8.30pm CET).
The rest of the players, plus coach Vinicius Eutrópio, will be arriving on the day of the match after their league fixture against Coritiba.
For Moraes, the game is not an entirely new experience. He once appeared at the Camp Nou as a Benfica player. But this time the circumstances are very different. “This game is a homage to the victims after everything that has happened to this team" he explains. "Every time we go onto the field, memories of the tragedy come back.”
It’s not the first time Silva has faced the mighty Barça either. He met the Catalans in the Copa del Rey ten years ago, when he was playing for Alavés, and even scored – a moment he still cherishes.
One of the most long-awaited moments in the Gamper will be the presence of Alan Ruschel. The defender, one of just six survivors of the air accident that cost the lives of 71 people last November, will be playing for the first time since that tragic day.
“We’ve been with him since the start” says Moraes. "We know how much he has fought to play football again. It will be a very special day for everyone that was involved.”
The visiting team have had a very special escort since arriving in Catalonia. Barça’s futsal star Ferrao, the top goalscorer in the Spanish league last season, is from the same city of Chapecó.
“My father played for Chapecoense when I was a kid and I‘d go to watch whenever I could" he says. "My friends in Chapecó have said that the only team that really helped Chapecoense was Barça and that makes me feel very proud."
Ferrao, who will be watching the game tomorrow from a special seat in the presidential box, exchanged shirts with Ruschel in a moment he described as “very emotional and gratifying.”