Brazil mourns fallen football team in pouring rain

The coffins, draped in the green flag of the club, Chapecoense Real, were unloaded onto a red carpet under military escort as victims' family and friends watched with a mix of sobs and cheers.

Chapecoense plane crash football team funeral

Trucks carrying the coffins with the remains of Chapecoense soccer team members, victims of an air crash in Colombia, drive through the streets of Chapeco on Saturday.   -  AP

The bodies of 50 players, coaches and staff from a Brazilian football team wiped out in a plane crash in Colombia arrived home on Saturday for a massive funeral.

Fireworks lit up the sky over the stadium in Chapeco as two Brazilian Air Force planes transporting the team's coffins touched down at the southern city's airport in pouring rain.

The coffins, draped in the green flag of the club, Chapecoense Real, were unloaded onto a red carpet under military escort as victims' family and friends watched with a mix of sobs and cheers.

They were then lined up on the back of four large trucks and began a slow procession to Conda Arena, the stadium where just 10 days ago the Chapecoense players were thrilling their fans. The city is holding a huge funeral to honor its little team that got cut down at the height of its glory.

The unsung club was having a fairytale season until the charter plane flying it to the biggest match in its history ran out of fuel and smashed into the mountains outside Medellin on Monday night, killing 71 people.

The city is expecting some 100,000 people — half its population — to attend.

There was imposing silence at the stadium as the funeral cortege got under way, broken only by cheers of "Champions!" whenever the screens showed images of the procession.

Soaking wet from the rain, his eyes red from crying, mechanic Rui Alonso Thomas was there with his 10-year-old daughter, who was draped in the Chapecoense banner. "We would have been here rain or shine. Our dream was finally becoming reality. It was so close. There's just no explaining it," he said, choking back tears.

"Chapeco will take a long time to get over this. But I plan to keep coming to the stadium. Chapecoense is in our hearts. It's our family," said Patricia Carraro, a 32-year-old cashier.

The arrival was delayed by an outpouring of emotion at a refueling stop along the way, when locals in the Amazon city of Manaus flocked to the airport to pay tribute to the crash victims.

Brazilian President Michel Temer met the planes on arrival and will attend the memorial at the stadium. The coach of the Brazilian national team, Tite, and FIFA chief Gianni Infantino will also attend. The latter canceled a trip to Australia to be there.

'My son was all passion'

The crash has left the football world in mourning. A minute's silence for the team will be held before every Champions League and Europa League game next week.

In Brazil, other clubs have offered Chapecoense players so it can continue competing.

Chapecoense players had been on their way to Medellin for the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, South America's second-biggest club tournament.

Inside their stadium, a single set of goal posts remains -- the one star goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, 31, defended in the semifinal match with a heroic last-minute save that sealed Chapecoense's trip to the finals.

"It's a horrible feeling, seeing this and knowing my son will arrive here in a coffin," said his mother, Ilaide Padilha.

"It's very sad remembering not only that stop (against Argentina's San Lorenzo), but also... him running across the grass with his arms wide open. My son was all passion."

Overflow crowd

The stadium has capacity for just 19,000 people. Soldiers unloaded the coffins when they arrived at the stadium. Two giant screens were set up outside for the overflow crowd. Tents were put up on the pitch for some 2,000 family members and close friends of the team.

The other victims — Brazilians, Bolivians, a Paraguayan and a Venezuelan — were flown home Thursday and Friday.

Six people miraculously survived the crash, and are being treated in hospitals. Authorities are still investigating the crash.

Colombia's civil aviation safety chief said the crew of the British Aerospace 146 jet had disregarded international rules on fuel reserves.

The Bolivia-based charter company, LAMIA, had its permit suspended on Thursday.

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