Brazilian tragedy unites the soccer world in sorrow – Los Angeles Times

There was supposed to be a soccer game in Medellin, Colombia, last Wednesday. Instead Atletico Nacional and thousands of its fans filed into a packed stadium to pay homage to the Brazilian club they were scheduled to play.

Before last week, few people outside Brazil knew much about Chapecoense, a hard-luck team of modest means and more modest talent. From the tiny town of Chapeco, in the southern state of Santa Catalina, the club had spent most of its existence in the lower tiers of Brazilian soccer, just struggling to survive.

But everything seemed to be come together this year. Chapecoense reached the finals of South America’s second-biggest club tournament, the Copa Sudamericana, whose two-leg playoff was to begin in Medellin. The team never made it there, though. Its charter flight crashed into a mountainside 10 miles from the airport late Monday, killing 71 of the 77 people on board.

At times the world’s most popular sport can seem unwieldy and uncaring. Beset by corruption and fraud, plagued by match-fixing scandals and focused more on sponsorship dollars and broadcast fees than the game itself, soccer’s caretakers rarely exhibit the heart and passion that drew so many to it in the first place.

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