On Tuesday night past, Monte-Carlo Sporting Club played host to an event so breathtakingly high end, that it made BBC Sports Personality of the Year look like a night in the Queen Vic. Phil Mitchell shouting the odds and waving a concealed bottle of liquor because Ian Beale got to play Gary Lineker for the night. The mind doth wander…
The 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards saw the likes of Michael Johnson, Martina Navratilova and Luis Figo gather alongside none other than Prince Albert (almost certainly the hairy guy from WWF) to recognise the indelible sporting achievements of the past year.
In an evening where Roger Federer and Serena Williams walked away with the prestigious Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year gongs, and that absolute fox Kate Abdo walked away with my heart, little fanfare was made about the award for Sporting Moment of the Year. It came on a beautiful early August evening in the Camp Nou, the scene for so many significant sporting moments throughout the years. However this year, the award would not be bestowed for another scintillating championship win or a divine piece of brilliance – there was something far more important at play.
The Chapocoense story is a familiar one – far more familiar than any of us could ever have wanted. But on that balmy mid summer night in Catalunya, the eight long months of darkness finally seem to dissipate into the evening air. The recovery was finally complete and Chapocoense, and Alan Ruschel, could finally concentrate on what they had always wanted to again – the football.
Ruschel captained Los Chape that night, miraculously leading his team on to the Camp Nou turf exactly thirty seven weeks after being pulled from the wreckage of LaMia Flight 2933, after it had plummeted into the hills just south of Medellín’s, José María Córdova Airport on 28th November 2016. One of only six people to survive the crash, Ruschel, along with teammates Neto and Jackson Follmann, lost nineteen of their Chapocoense family.
By the first week of December he was walking – thanks to emergency back surgery – and by March he was back in training, all culminating in his emotional return to action in Barcelona. Neto made the bench that night. Unfortunately, Follmann would grace the field that night using a prosthesis, his right leg having succumb to the injuries sustained in the accident. He will never play again.
And so it was fitting, that on Thursday, Ruschel signed a two year contact extension with the club, in the same humble and unheralded fashion with which Chapocoense picked up their award two nights previously.
Despite only managing four appearances in the now iconic green jersey last season, Director of Football, Rui Costa, insists the decision to award Ruschel a contract was one not borne of “charity”, but of the courage and sheer grit of the man. “He has faced the greatest challenge one can have in life and was able to wear the shirt”.
Costa’s words will no doubt signify the end of one arduous and painstaking chapter for Ruschel, who poignantly commented after the Barca match, that he no longer wished the world to see him as a survivor, but once again as a footballer. We all await the next chapter in one of this world’s most inspiring tale that is not yet at it’s end.
Alan Ruschel. Muito respeito meu amigo.