Ronaldinho desperate to help Chapecoense rebuild

Ronaldinho: Keen to help

Former Brazil forward Ronaldinho is determined to do what he can to help Chapecoense’s efforts to rebuild after the devastating plane crash in Colombia, according to his brother.

The charter jet carrying the Chapecoense team, along with club officials and journalists, to Medellin for their Copa Sudamericana final match against Colombian side Atletico Nacional came down late on Monday night.

The extent of Chapecoense’s loss became clear with the confirmed deaths of 19 players and also officials of the Brazilian club who were on the flight.

Just three of the team – defender Alan Luciano Ruschel, reserve goalkeeper Jackson Ragnar Follmann and centre-back Helio Hermito Zampier Neto – were named among only six survivors of the crash, which killed 71 people.

Chapecoense’s acting president Ivan Tozzo says the club – which came up through the lower divisions after only being founded in 1973 – is determined to build again, but that can only be done with support of the wider football community.

Brazil’s leading football clubs have already pledged to loan players to Chapecoense for free and asked for them to be safeguarded from relegation from the top flight for the next three seasons.

Reports also emerged Ronaldinho would be willing to offer his services for free to Chapecoense, which saw messages posted on the official Facebook page of the 36-year-old 2002 World Cup winner urging him to pull his boots on once again.

Roberto Assis, the player’s brother and agent, confirmed in an interview with Brazilian media outlet Globo Esporte that Ronaldinho had been deeply moved by the tragic events and wanted to help, although ruled out an immediate prospect of a return to action.

“He (Ronaldinho) fits the profile, can be the right guy, but the moment is to help families and it would be (wrong) to create expectations for now,” Assis said.

“The fact people remember Ronaldinho’s name shows that he is loved and also because he is now without a club. As Brazilians, we all feel involved, we are together.

“But now it is a very difficult time with what has just happened.

“I do not know whether there would be a game or some kind of link, but later on if there is contact, we can talk.

“I can only say that we are here and we want to help.”

Premier League players will this weekend wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence as a mark of respect.

A similar tribute will also be held ahead of all of next week’s Champions League and Europa League matches.

Atletico Nacional have asked CONMEBOL to award the Copa Sudamericana final to their opponents as a tribute to the dead.

Current holders Santa Fe, a Colombian team based in Bogota, have given Chapecoense a replica of the trophy, posting a picture on their official Twitter feed with the message: “seek the same dream, this cup is also yours.’

Atletico Mineiro president Daniel Nepomuceno has said out of respect, the club would not be sending a team to play the game against Chapecoense for the final scheduled Serie A match of the

Brazil domestic season, which has been postponed until December 11, and instead request a win be handed to their opponents.

Pele, who helped Brazil win the World Cup three times between 1958 and 1970, offered more words of support.

Speaking to ESPN Brazil, he said: “I ask God to give the families strength to get through this suffering as fast as possible. There are many accidents here on Earth. It is sad because they are our brothers.

“We must pray and be a positive force for the families who are suffering. For us Brazilians, it is very difficult.”

Officials from Colombia’s civil aviation authority believe the plane had run out of fuel when it went down some 11 miles from the Jose Maria Cordova de Rionegro airport.

The ‘black box’ flight recorders from the British Aerospace 146 plane have been retrieved and are being brought back to the UK to be examined in Farnborough.

A full investigation into the crash of the 17-year-old British Aerospace aircraft is expected to take months.

Defender Neto is in a stable condition following surgery, which included procedures on his lung, knee, wrist and head.

The 31-year-old’s father Helam gave an update on Facebook suggesting the player could one day return to action.

“I would like to inform you with great satisfaction and happiness that my son is getting better,” the post read.

“He just had surgery on his leg and doctors say he will return to football.

“Thank you for your prayers and we continue with them because we still need confirmation (of his recovery).”

In an update on the club’s official website, Chapecoense confirmed arrangements were now being made to bring bodies of the victims back from Medellin, which is expected to be completed on Saturday.

Fans will later be able to pay their tributes in an official memorial ceremony at the 19,000-capacity Arena Conda stadium, which will also be broadcast on large screens outside.