'They were a family' - Chapecoense president expresses heartfelt grief

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Chapecoense president Plinio David de Nes Filho delivered a heartfelt tribute to the players who died in Monday's devastating plane crash in Colombia.

A chartered flight carrying 81 people, including players and staff of the Brazilian team, who were travelling for a match against Atletico Nacional in Medellin, crashed in Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Union.

Police have confirmed 76 people died, though that number may increase, with three players among five individuals being treated in hospital. There are unconfirmed reports a fourth player - Zampier Neto - also survived.

South American governing body CONMEBOL has suspended all activities until further notice, while Brazil has declared three days of national mourning following the tragedy, as clubs and players from around the world issued messages of condolence and support.

A photograph of desolate team-mates, who did not travel, later emerged from the Chapecoense dressing room at the Arena Conda and quickly circulated on social media.

De Nes Filho, who had been due to take the same flight but made other arrangements late on, described a desperate feeling of grief given that his last contact with the travelling party had been one of huge positivity.

"There were lifelong friends on this flight and we think it will have been very hard for them to have survived this accident," he said on programme Bom Dia Brasil.

"This wasn't just a group of people who respected each other professionally. It was a family, a group of friends. Everybody laughed so much, even in defeat. There was a great atmosphere, great joy.

"Yesterday morning, when I said goodbye to them, they said that they were going off to make our dreams come true. We shared this dream with all our emotion. And in the early hours of this morning, that dream came to an end."

The club's vice-president Ivan Tozzo, speaking to SporTV, said: "I'm very sad to receive the news that came through this morning. It was completely unexpected. 

"We're gathered at the stadium, welcoming people who are affected, people who love Chapecoense.

"It's an unbelievable situation. The penny has yet to drop. We're just waiting, everyone putting our faith in God that things will go our way. The pain is hard to take.

"I've been at Chapecoense a long time and I know what we've gone through to get here. Now we're arrived here - I won't say at our peak but known around the country - a tragedy like this happens. It's really tough, a great tragedy."

Alan Ruschel was the first player to be taken to hospital, while team-mates Marcos Danilo Padilha and Jackson Ragnar Follmann were later named by Colombian authorities, although emergency services at the crash site say they have not given up hope of further rescues.

Ruschel's wife, Amanda, posted a message in which she confirmed the 27-year-old defender was in a stable condition.

"Thank God Alan is in the hospital, stable," she said. "We are praying for all of those who were not yet rescued and offer our support to all their relatives.

"This is a complicated, difficult situation. Only God himself can give us strength. Thank you God."