South American football governing body, CONMEBOL, has officially awarded Brazilian side, Chapecoense, the 2016 Copa Sudamericana on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, the association said the club awarded the continent’s secondary international club tournament “as a posthumous homage to the victims of the fatal crash that leaves our sport in mourning.”
Club officials had said on Saturday that the title and $2million prize money would be bestowed upon the Brazilian side after a plane carrying the team crashed en route to the Copa final last Monday, taking the lives of 71 people on board – including 19 players.
On Monday, the news was made official, with CONMEBOL also announcing that rival club Atletico Nacional would be given an award for fair play consisting of $1million.
“For CONMEBOL there is no greater example of the ‘spirit of peace, understanding and fair play’ set forth as an objective of our institution than the solidarity, consideration and respect shown by Atletico National towards its brothers from Chapecoense,” a CONMEBOL statement said.
The Colombian side, who would have been Chapecoense’s opponents in the two-legged final, campaigned for the title to be given to the Brazilian club.
Speaking after a memorial in Chapeco on Saturday, Chapecoense interim president, Ivan Tozzo, said that the title – complete with the winners’ prize money – will be awarded by the South American football confederation to the club.
“CONMEBOL have testified that they will crown Chapecoense as champions of the Copa Sudamericana,” Tozzo told Globo. “We are receiving support from all federations. The CBF, CONMEBOL, FIFA, and especially the people of Chapeco.
“Right now we are beginning to rebuild the team. People want football, people love football in Chapeco. Therefore, we must continue this. Let’s talk and do well, let the dust settle and rebuild the team for next year.”
As the winners, Chapecoense qualify automatically for next season’s Copa Libertadores, the continent’s top tournament.
It also means that Chapecoense will face Atletico Nacional – the defending Copa Libertadores champions – in an emotion-charged two-game Supercopa Sul-Americana next year between the continent’s two club champions.
Brazil’s leading clubs have pledged to loan players to Chapecoense for free and asked for them to be safeguarded from relegation from the top flight for the next three seasons.
Just three players – defender Alan Luciano Ruschel, reserve goalkeeper Jackson Ragnar Follmann and centre-back Helio Hermito Zampier Neto – were among the six survivors of the crash. Only Neto has a hope of resuming his career, reports have said.