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Chapecoense, struck by tragedy on the verge of the biggest game in the club's history

Chapecoense are not one of Brazil's better-known teams. However, they had enjoyed much success in recent years and were on their way to the biggest match in the club's history when their plane crashed in Colombia.

Associacao Chapecoense de Futebol, commonly known as Chapecoense, are based in the city of Chapeco, a city of just over 200,000 inhabitants in the west of Brazil's southern state of Santa Caterina which was largely settled by Germans and Austrians in the early 1800s.

From the time of their founding in 1973, the club has mainly played in Brazil's lower divisions, but have also won the Santa Catarina state championship on five occasions, first in 1977 and most recently this year. 

As recently as 2009, Chapecoense were in the fourth tier, but since then they have rapidly moved up through Brazil's divisions, gaining promotion to the top flight in 2014.

 

However, their biggest success so far has come this season, when they went on a run in the Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent of the Europa League, defeating two of Argentina's top teams, San Lorenzo and Independiente, as well as Junior of Colombia to reach the final.

Fußball Spieler Alan Ruschel (M) Palmeiras v Chapecoense - Brasileirao Series A 2016 (Getty Images/F. Vogel)

Defender Alan Ruschel (center) survived the crash

   

Chapecoense had been on their way to Medellin, Colombia where they were to face Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the biggest moment in the club's history, when the plane they were traveling on crashed near its destination, killing 76 of the 81 people on board.

South American football's governing body CONMEBOL has called off Wednesday's first leg.

"All the activities of the confederation are suspended until further notice," CONMEBOL said.

Colombian authorities have confirmed that Chapecoense defender Alan Rushel as well as goalkeepers Marcos Danilo Padilla and Jackson Follmann were among the five people on board who survived the crash. However, officials later announced that Danilo had passed away in hospital. 

Once home to a former Germany player

The best-known player in Chapecoense's history was likely Paulo Rink, who spent time there on loan from Atletico Paranaense in the mid 1990s, before moving to Bayer Leverkusen in 1997. After being granted German citizenship, the Brazilian-born Rink went on to make 13 appearances for the German national team.

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