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Chapeco buries soccer club president as fans look to future



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CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — The president of Brazilian football team Chapecoense was buried Sunday as fans paid their final tributes, trying to put behind them the worst moment in the club's history.

Club president Sandro Pallaoro was on the plane that crashed almost a week ago as the club was traveling to Colombia to play the first of two games to determine the Copa Sudamericana champion — the No. 2 club tournament in Latin America.

The crash killed 71 of 77 people on board, including 19 players. The dead were honored Saturday at Chapeco's stadium, with burials taking place across the country. None of the players were from the small southern Brazilian city.

Pallaoro was praised for making the small club competitive, and keeping it out of debt.

"Until now our priority was the families," Chapecoense fan Agenor Martins said.

"Now we have to open a new chapter for the club and for the city, we have to move on. The president's example is that we can be great even in a small city if we do everything in the right, most transparent way. And we will do it again."

Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon said the city is looking forward and hopes to return to some ordinary routines on Monday.

"Schools will be open again, and we will start adapting after this tragedy that will be with us forever," Buligon said. "Our community will hold tight and recover little by little. Until then all we can do is to be with the families that stay here and cry with them."

The club is guaranteed a spot next season in Brazil's top league, and is likely to be reassembled with mostly junior players, and players on loan from other clubs.

Retired Argentine star Juan Roman Riquelme and Brazil's Ronaldinho have offered to come out of retirement to help the club.

The final round of matches in Brazil's top league was postponed because of the tragedy. The Brazilian Football Confederation has not clarified if matches will take place next weekend.

Players on many teams have said they don't want to play.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mauricio Savarese

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