CHAPECO (Brazil) • Chapecoense, the Brazilian football club cruelly decimated by a plane crash, took to the field in a new line-up for their first match since the November tragedy on Saturday.
Intense public and media attention surrounded the friendly match against Palmeiras, played in the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, which was decked out in green, the home side's colour.
Although all the club jerseys were snapped up online, and 241 journalists were accredited for the game, the stadium was not full. Expensively priced tickets at US$25 (S$35) each at a time of dire unemployment in Brazil likely kept some away.
Before the kick-off, the three survivors of the crash that wiped out their team-mates received the Copa Sudamerica trophy posthumously awarded to the club to sustained applause.
Widows of the deceased players then filed onto the grass to receive medals on behalf of their husbands in an emotionally charged ceremony.
"I'm sure that those who have left us, if they are watching, would feel happy," said one of the survivors, left-back Alan Ruschel.
The tragedy cut short the fairytale run of the unheralded team who had risen in five years from Brazilian football's fourth division and were playing in their first major final.
To rebuild the side, sporting director Rui Costa has recruited 22 players, most of them on loan.
Half the match proceeds will go to the families of those killed, while the rest will be used to rebuild the club.