Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense is in training to prepare for their first game since a devastating plane crash in November killed all but three of its players.
Chapecoense is set to face a local rival from the state of Santa Catarina on Jan. 26 with a team almost completely filled with new signings. The club's new manager Vagner Mancini is expected to have a full 30-man squad to pick from.
While Chapecoense was offered special privileges, such as the free loan on players and immunity from being relegated from Brazil’s top league, the all-but-wiped-out club rejected the offers and chose instead to build a squad themselves.
However, some of Brazil’s richest clubs, including Palmeiras, Cruzeiro and Flamengo, loaned players with the option to buy or sell players with a larger sell-on price to Chapecoense.
One of the survivors of the crash, 31-year-old defender, Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, was shown taking his first steps out of crutches on Wednesday. Along with Neto, the other two survivors, defender Alan Ruschel and reserve goalkeeper Jackson Follman, have had their shirts retired by the club as a sign of respect.
“I think I will be able to play again soon … With the help of God, I will be on the field soon with the Chapecoense shirt,” Neto told Fox Sports.
On Jan. 25., the Brazilian national team will play Colombia in a friendly match in Rio Janeiro, where proceeds will be donated to the families of the victims.
A total of 71 people, including 19 players from Chapecoense, were killed when a plane crashed shortly before it was scheduled to land in Medellin, Colombia. The team was on its way to play Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final, by far the biggest match in the club’s history.
Authorities determined that the flight was overloaded and ran out of fuel before crashing outside of Medellin. The club was posthumously awarded the Copa Sudamericana title.