Colombia’s Atletico Nacional have been given a hero’s welcome in southern Brazil for the first leg of the South American Supercup final against Chapecoense – a team that was almost wiped out in the plane crash that killed 71 people on board, including 19 players back in November.
The Colombian side and their fans won worldwide acclaim with the respect they showed towards their opponents following the tragic events that unfolded as they turned out in huge numbers to pay their respects to the Brazilians who had lost their lives.
The plane crash took place just days before the first leg of the South American Supercup final was due to take place in Medellin and Chapecoense were later named winners of South America’s second most important tournament at the request of Atletico Nacional.
The solidarity shown has brought the two clubs closer together and Nacional’s squad were given a guard of honour as they stepped off their chartered flight on Tuesday afternoon.
A military band played as journalist Rafael Henzel, one of only six survivors from the crash, presented the Nacional players and staff with medals.
The team bus was then followed by dozens of cars as they drove towards their hotel where the Chapecoense fans also gathered to cheer them.
Atletico Nacional were taken aback by the welcome and released a statement on their website which said: “Chapeco outdid itself. We are far from home and yet received like heroes,” Atletico Nacional said on their official website.
“A continental final and total brothers. There are no words to express our gratitude.”
The South American Super Cup is played annually between the winners of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
The first leg will be played on Tuesday night in front of a sell-out crowd with the return leg being played in Medellin on May 10.