Soccer

Colombia plane crash survivor will play soccer again, father says

Helio Neto, one of the three surviving soccer players pulled from the wreckage of the Colombian air crash that killed 71 people this week, is doing well after leg surgery and will play again, his father said.

Brazilian defender Helio Neto's return to Chapecoense club delayed by leg surgery

Chapecoense central defender Helio Neto will return to the pitch with the Brazilian soccer team after he recovers from leg surgery. Neto survived a plane crash carrying the first division soccer club team to a match. The chartered plane crashed into a Colombian hillside and broke into pieces, killing 71 people. (Jorge Saenz/Associated Press/File)

One of the three surviving soccer players pulled from the wreckage of the Colombian air crash that killed 71 people this week is doing well after leg surgery and will play again, his father said.

"My son is getting better all the time," Helam Marinho Zampier, father of Chapecoense player Helio Neto, wrote in a Facebook post late on Thursday night.

"He has just had surgery on his leg, and doctors affirm he will play football again," the post said.

Neto, a 31-year old central defender, was one of just six survivors of the crash, which took place as the plane approached Medellin airport on Monday night.

The Chapecoense team was heading to Colombia to take on local club Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final.

Two other players survived, but neither is expected to play again.

Clubs pay tribute

The news comes ahead of weekend soccer games that will be marked by the tragedy.

Many clubs have already held a silent tribute, and fans, clubs and players the world over have shown their solidarity with the small team from southern Brazil.

Among those scheduled to attend the funerals in Brazil this weekend is Gianno Infantino, president of world soccer governing body FIFA, which has called for a minute's silence at all games this weekend.

"All players around the world are also asked to wear black armbands in memory of the tragic loss of life," FIFA added.  

Here are some facts about the Chapecoense club, which is not widely known to North American sports fans:

  • Full name: Associação Chapecoense de Futebol.
  • Based in: Chapeco, a city of about 210,000 located about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Rio de Janeiro.
  • Founded: 1973.
  • Stadium: Arena Conda (capacity 22,600).
  • League: Two stints in Brazil's top league, Serie A (1979, 2014-present).
  • Titles: Won Santa Catarina state titles in 1977, 1996, 2007, 2011.
  • 2016 regular-season record: 13-13-11 (ninth in 20-team Serie A).
  • Top scorer: Bruno Rangel (10 goals in 32 matches).​

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