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Nov. 29, 2016 — A tragedy ends another fairy-tale athletic story

The 2016 calendar year has brought us numerous stories about athletic Cinderellas.

Leicester City, a 5,000-to-1 underdog soccer club at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, won the Premier League last spring after going without a major title in their 133-year history.

The Chicago Cubs, just last month, won baseball’s World Series for the first time in more than a century.

Associação Chapecoense de Futebol, a soccer team from Chapeco, a city of about 200,000 in southern Brazil, has only been around in its current iteration since 1973. The Big Green have worked their way from the fourth division all the way to the top flight of Brazilian soccer since 2014, and managed to qualify for the Copa Sudamericana, a secondary South American club competition to the more established Copa Libertadores.

But Chapecoense didn’t care whether or not the Copa meant qualification to the FIFA World Club Cup; they were going for their first major continental trophy, having defeated Argentina giants San Lorenzo and Independiente on the way to the final two-legged series, which was supposed to start tomorrow night.

That was before a plane carrying the team and reporters flying from Bolivia to Colombia crashed on final approach, killing 75 people including a majority of Chapecoense’s first-choice team.

This is a tragedy on the first order, as devastating as the Munich plane crash in 1958 that killed members of the Manchester United side looking to win a third consecutive European continental soccer championship which would eventually become the UEFA Champions League.

But what deepens the tragedy was the fact that Chapecoense was a good team that had no highly-paid superstars, just one foreign player, and no player with senior men’s national team caps.

And it leaves us all thinking, “What might have been?”

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