Chapecoense: Emotional scenes at Brazilian team's first game since plane crash

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There were tears and cheers as the team played its first match

Brazilian club Chapecoense have played their first match since most of their team were killed in a plane crash. BBC Sport's Mani Djazmi was at the Arena Conda and describes Saturday's emotional scenes.

The lifting of trophies are among the metronomic ticks of any football season. You can set your holidays by them.

But there cannot have been a more enduring image than the lifting of the Copa Sudamericana trophy by the surviving players of Chapecoense on Saturday.

Neto, Alan Ruschel and Jackson Follmann were presented with the trophy that was awarded to the Brazilian club after their team-mates died in a plane crash on the way to face Colombia's Nacional in the first leg of the 2016 final on 29 November.

Follmann, who was the reserve goalkeeper, left his hospital bed for the afternoon to be at the stadium, where the club were playing their first match since the crash.

Recovering from a partial leg amputation, he was pushed on to the pitch in a wheelchair by former Chapecoense goalkeeper Nivaldo.

Neto has just started walking without crutches, while Ruschel is targeting May for his return to football. Remarkable when one considers what happened to them.

chapecoense players
Follmann and Ruschel were in tears at the trophy presentation

The first thing Ruschel did upon returning to Chapeco on Saturday was visit his favourite bakery.

"Yes, this was the first place I went to, we woke up really early and we hadn't eaten, so the first place we went to was the bakery," he said.

"We used to go there, me, [goalkeeper] Danilo and Follmann after training, so it was a good place for this new start."

While the trophy was being received, the families of the dead players, journalists and club directors were given medals.

"It was a hard day, a bit sad, but also a day that we felt the support of all these people," said Dhayane Pallaoro, whose father Sandro was the much-loved president of Chapecoense who died in the crash.

"We could never imagine the extent of football's solidarity.

Relatives of the victims lift the trophy
Relatives of the victims lift the trophy

"One of the things I'll never forget was my dad's speech that we watched on the big screen," the 28-year-old added.

"He used to say that Chapecoense was a big family, that from the kitmen to the president, they were all equal.

"They had a dream and they transformed Chapecoense into a big club, and we hope they can never be forgotten."

A mother of one of the journalists spoke about how it was her son's dream to report on Chapecoense.

"He lived for them," she said. "And he died with them."

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Chapecoense: The day football wept

Hanging from the perimeter fence that surrounds the pitch at the Arena Conda stadium were thousands of paper swans and hearts. Green and white ribbons streamed from the home end.

On banners and in songs, the repeated epitaph was 'eternal champions'.

One sensed this day was an opportunity for Chapeco to let out a big breath.

It was the next landmark after a funeral, when the pain and longing still burns, but the inexorable flow of life has taken everyone just a little bit further away from the agony.

But it was also a celebration by the people of who they are, and who their players were.

Chapecoense plane crash timeline
29 November 2016: Chapecoense team in plane crash
3 December 2016: Fans unite for stadium memorial
5 December 2016: Team awarded Copa Sudamericana
26 December 2016: Colombia blames human error

After the emotion of the build-up, the glorious triviality of a football match started, when Chapecoense's new striker, Wellington Paulista, kicked off their friendly with Palmeiras.

Finally, again, the Arena Conda embraced the sights and sounds for which it was built.

Fans at the Arena Conda stadium
Fans at the Arena Conda stadium

The drums, the undulations of the crowd with the balance of play, the truculent child who has to be taken home early.

And the fouls, the mis-placed passes, and the goals.

Douglas Grolli is a central defender who played for Chapecoense as they rose through the divisions.

He asked his club, Cruzeiro, if he could return, to help in the rebuilding process.

His first contribution was a goal from close range to make it 1-1.

Chapecoense's new era was underway and now, the crowd's emphatic oneness had a new focus.

The new players of Chapecoense pose
The new players of Chapecoense pose before kick-off

Chapecoense took the lead just after half-time, but Palmeiras equalised with a fine strike from outside the area by Vitinho, prompting rousing applause by the home fans.

On the 71st minute, a minute's applause was held to remember the 71 who died.

The match was stopped, and players stood where they were.

That probably gave some Chapecoense players a chance to study the faces of their new team-mates.

The match ended 2-2 and it was an understandably disjointed performance by a team that had never played together before.

But football doesn't understand, and makes no allowances. So plenty of work lies ahead for Grolli and the rest, as they begin the dream of lifting another trophy. Or, for now, perhaps just staying in the top division.

Follmann
Follmann lifts the Copa Sudamericana

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