SPORT

Chapecoense Plane Crash Survivors In Emotional Return To The Pitch

Barcelona won the match, but Chapecoense's injured players stole everybody's heart.

08/08/2017 5:03 PM AEST | Updated 08/08/2017 5:04 PM AEST
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This is what football is all about.

In November Last year, 71 people were killed when LaMia Airlines Flight 2933 crashed into a mountain near Medellín, Colombia. Brazilian football club Chapecoense was on board the plane, en route to play a major Cup final, and 19 players and a staff member were among the dead.

On Monday night in Spain Chapecoense played the world's best club side, Barcelona FC, in a friendly match. It was the first competitive outing for the three Chapecoense players who survived the crash.

Alan Ruschel, Jakson Follman and Neto were the only three players from the Brazilian side who survived the crash and, after nine months off the field, they took centre stage in a tribute match to their fallen teammates at Barcelona's famous Camp Nou ground.

The trio were honoured in the pre-game presentation with Ruschel captaining the side in his first appearance on a soccer field for Chapecoense since the incident and Follman and Neto kicking off the game in front of a standing ovation from supporters in the stands.

While Barcelona went on to a convincing 5-0 win it was the reception given throughout the match to Chapecoense -- who have become known as Brazil's "Cinderella story" -- that really stood out.

Follman, who had a leg amputated following the crash, and Neto were unable to play in the match, but Ruschel led his side for 35 minutes before kneeling down and pointing to the sky as he was substituted.

Chapecoense had been travelling to the away leg of the two-leg final of the prestigious South American club championship when the devastating accident occurred.

The club was set to play Colombian side Atlético Nacional in the championship final but, in a wonderful sporting gesture, they called for Chapecoense to be awarded the Cup after the tragedy. After the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) accepted the request, Chapecoense were named Copa Sudamericana champions for 2016.

The unheralded Brazilian club comes from the unfashionable southern city of Chapecó, which has a population of approximately 200,000, and was supported by clubs around the world -- including Barcelona, who donated more than $370,000 to the side -- following the accident.

An outpouring of support was also seen from the club's fans in the days after the crash, including a moving memorial service that was held at Chapecoense's home stadium in the drenching rain in Chapeco.

Brazil Photo Press/CON via Getty Images

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