Colombia arrive in Brazil for Chapecoense benefit football friendly

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 24 (IANS) Colombia’s national football squad have arrived here, eager to impress coach Jose Pekerman in Wednesday’s friendly against Brazil.

The fixture, which will feature South American-based players only, will raise money for families of the Chapecoense players, who fell victims to an air disaster last November, reports Xinhua news agency.

Colombia midfielder Gustavo Cuellar, who plays for Flamengo in Brazil’s Serie A, said the match would be taken seriously by players of both teams.

“We’re going to play for a good cause, to help the families of the players who unfortunately died,” the 24-year-old said.

“It’s a tragedy that hit us hard. At the same time, this will be an opportunity to show what we are capable of with the national team. I’m going to give it my all against a team which is very tough.”

All of the ticket proceeds will be donated to families affected by the LaMia plane crash on the outskirts of Medellin.

Seventy one people died in the accident, including 19 players from Brazil’s Chapecoense football club and all of the coaching staff.

The tragedy occurred just two days before Chapecoense were due to play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final.

Colombia’s squad held a light training session on Monday afternoon as they fine-tune their preparations for the match at the Engenhao stadium.

Deportivo Cali goalkeeper Camilo Vargas said the friendly was a chance to bring closure to those affected by the tragedy.

“It’s going to be a great occasion,” Vargas said. “It (the tragedy) was difficult for all Colombians.

“We felt like they (Chapecoense) were our team. This game marks a new beginning for Colombia and Brazil.”

Colombia right-back Daniel Bocanegra added: “The idea is to play at our best because it’s a chance to get noticed.”