Chapecoense defender has rejoined the team on Friday. He talked about his feelings coming back to the team without his teammates who died in a November 28 plane crash. “It is a very difficult situation. I knew some of the dead since I was 17. I wish I were with them, but I have to face this.”
Chapecoense was headed to Medellín when a LaMia plane ran out of fuel, killing 71 people – aincluding 19 players, the team’s entire coaching staff, and members of its front office.
Neto stressed that he wishes to play in 2017. He plans to hit the field as early as July.
First, however, he must heal – both mentally and physically. “I either face it and honor [my dead teammates] or I’ll drown in depression,” said the defender. Physically, Neto has yet to gain 10kg to recover his normal weight. He must also undergo physical therapy to recover the strength of his muscles. Chapecoense’s head doctor, Carlos Mendonça, stipulates that Neto could be fully recovered in up to 120 days.
The club’s football director, Rui Costa, stated earlier in the week that he expects the three players who survived the crash to rejoin the squad.
Chapecoense will kick off its 2017 season on January 21 with a friendly home game against Palmeiras. Curiously, Palmeiras was the last team to face Chapecoense prior to the plane crash. The match will be a fundraiser for Chapecoense, which will keep 100 percent of the revenues, while Palmeiras pay all expenses with stadium and equipment.
Earlier in the week, football director Rui Costa has announced the signing of up to 20 new players to rebuild the squad. The team is counting on free player loans from teams in the Brazilian Serie A to rebuild its squad. In 2017, Chapecoense will play in Copa Libertadores, the most important clubs’ competition in South America.
Meanwhile, the team’s Under-20 team is playing the São Paulo Youth Cup. After debuting with a loss, the team rebounded and won on Thursday against Sampaio Corrêa. Chapecoense plays again tomorrow, hoping to secure one of the two spots in the playoffs.