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Chapecoense Plane Crash Survivor Gets Heartwarming Ovation from Barca Fans in First Game Back (Video)
Last week 27-year-old defender Alan Ruschel was named captain of Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense.
Normally that would not be news. However, Ruschel is not just any soccer player. He is one of just three players to survive the tragic plane crash last November that killed 19 other Chapecoense players and 71 people in total. Ruschel spent the last eight months rehabbing after major back surgery, and he’s the only player on the current Chapecoense roster who was on the plane that went down in the hills outside Medellín, Colombia.
The club returned to action in January with a roster made up almost entirely of players loaned by other teams in Brazil’s top flight division. However, Ruschel made his triumphant return on Monday, during an exhibition game against Spanish giants FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.
The Chapecoense captain played just 36 minutes before being subbed off toward the end of the first half. However, he was given a rousing ovation from both players and fans as he exited the field.
After the match, Ruschel exchanged jerseys and shared a touching embrace with Argentine legend Lionel Messi.
What a moment.
Lionel Messi swaps shirts with Chapecoense plane crash survivor Alan Ruschel. pic.twitter.com/TzVt0fO1J0
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 7, 2017
Messi later wrote a personal message on Ruschel’s jersey and returned it to him personally.
Alan Ruschel, the Chapecoense captain and survivor of the tragedy, swapping shirts with Leo Messi. Amazing to see! pic.twitter.com/cpZ0fVCAGF
— Leo Messi Ⓜ️ (@LeoneIMESSl) August 8, 2017
“True happiness comes from humility and from the recognition that we are only very little or almost nothing, and life is only complete with the real feeling of love for our neighbour,” Ruschel wrote. “I am grateful with all my heart for so many blessings, so many successive miracles in my life. The winner said: ‘Let’s live our dreams, we have so little time.’”
A verdadeira felicidade vem da humildade e do reconhecimento de que sozinhos somos muito pouco ou quase nada, e a vida somente se completa com o real sentimento de amor ao próximo. Obrigada, sempre e acima de tudo a Deus. Foi Ele, então, será por Ele e para Ele. Obrigada a todos que estiveram do meu lado nestes meses de luta e vitória, a todos mesmo, independente a intensidade. Sou grato de todo o meu coração a tantas bênçãos, tantos milagres sucessivos na minha vida. Já dizia o chorão: “Vamos viver nossos sonhos, temos tão pouco tempo.”
Hats off to Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, and all their fans for giving Alan Ruschel such a warm welcome.