Dubai: Rafael Bastos, Hatta Club’s Brazilian import, paid glowing tributes to his fallen former teammates of Brazilian club Chapecoense.
Nearly everyone except a handful of passengers perished in the fateful crash that occurred late on Monday as the chartered flight carrying the Chapecoense squad and officials crashed while approaching Medellin’s international airport in Colombia. The Brazilians were scheduled to play the first leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional in a match that was seen as the biggest in the history of the club.
Leading the Chapecoense dream was former Al Jazira and Al Shabab coach Caio Junior, who took over the reins of the club earlier this year.
Even till last October, Bastos was one of the players with Chapecoense. As their attacking midefileder who also thrived as a winger, Bastos played six games for the Brazilians while failing to score once. It is then that Hatta Club came calling and Bastos decided to make the move to the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League (AGL) less than two months back.
On Tuesday night, Bastos featured in coach Gjokica Hadjivski’s starting line-up for their home match against Al Shabab that ended in a goalless stalemate. In fact it was Bastos who came closest to breaking the deadlock, but his curling free kick in the 73rd minute hit the framework and bounced back into play.
“I wish I had scored that goal from the free kick. It would have been the right way to commemorate the memory of my late teammates,” Bastos told Gulf News.
“As a team we were very close even though I spent a few weeks with them. I wanted to do something for my team as a form of respect for the departed souls, and a goal against Al Shabab would have been the right thing to ease the pain. But that was not to be,” he added.
The 31-year-old Brazilian was eventually substituted by Lahej Al Naufal with just three minutes remaining for the full-time whistle. “Now when I think about it, I consider that I might have been one of the players on the plane to Colombia,” Bastos recounted.
“But I got this offer from Hatta Club and I decided to take it as I had previous experience of playing in Saudi Arabia (Al Nasr, Riyadh) and Kuwait FC. At first I was shocked to hear that nearly all of my friends had died. We enjoyed so many special moments together and it was difficult at first to come to terms with the fact that they are no more,” he added.
“Now slowly, the reality has set in and all I can do is pray for their souls.”