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A New Goal

The soccer world unites after tragedy

AMONG THE MANY images circulating around the globe after the Nov. 28 plane crash that devastated Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense, four are especially searing.

There's the horrifying sight of a mangled Avro RJ85 that crashed in Colombia, reportedly because of a fuel shortage, killing 71 of the 77 on board. Among the fatalities were 19 Chapecoense players and the entire coaching staff, who were traveling to Colombia for what was to be the biggest game in the club's 44-year history.

There's the picture of the three players who weren't on the flight, sitting stunned in their empty locker room at Arena Conda, overcome with grief.

There's the shot of 42-year-old goalkeeper Nivaldo, who stayed at home so he could play his 300th and final game with the club in Chapeco on Dec. 7, in tears as he announced his retirement.

Then there are the images at Atlético Nacional's stadium in Medellín, where Chapecoense was to play the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. Instead, a reported 130,000 fans showed up to pay tribute with a heartfelt vigil.

Chapecoense, a club from a town of about 200,000 in southern Brazil, had reached the final just two years after ascending to Brazil's first division. Now the club's name is synonymous with tragedy: This is the first major plane crash involving a sports team since Russia's Yaroslavl hockey club in 2011.

FIFA declared that all games around the world last weekend would have a minute's silence, with every player asked to wear a black armband. Atlético Nacional implored the South American confederation to award the Copa title to Chapecoense. Brazilian clubs have offered to loan players to the rebuilding team at no charge and have asked that Chapecoense be immune from relegation for three seasons.

Nothing will erase the tragedy that rocked a club and a nation. But the soccer world has shown an example of compassion that is as beautiful as the game itself.