Chapecoense player: Changing seats saved my life

Alan Ruschel, one of only three Chapecoense players who survived the devastating plane crash last month, is slowly coming to terms with the tragedy.

The 27-year-old defender spoke to the press for the first time over the weekend, breaking down in tears as he recalled the devastating plane crash that killed 71 people, including 19 of his teammates, on its way to the Copa Sudamericana final.

In a move that almost certainly saved his life, Ruschel changed plane seats at the request of club director Cadu Gaucho, who did not survive.

“Cadu Gaucho asked me to sit further forward and let the journalists sit together at the back,” he recalled.

“I didn’t want to but then I saw Jakson Follman and he insisted I sit beside him. Only God can explain why I survived the accident. He grabbed me and gave me a second chance.”

Follman also survived the crash, as well as defender Neto.

Six people survived the crash in all – the three players, a club staff member, a journalist, and a flight attendant.

While Ruschel said he has tried to avoid much of the news about the crash, he did place some of the blame on the plane’s pilot, who reportedly co-owned the charter airline.

“When they told me what happened it seemed like a dream, a nightmare,” Ruschel said. “Little by little they’ve been telling me what happened and I’m starting to understand. I try not to speak of the accident, I avoid the news, but from the little I’ve seen, I think it was greed on the pilot’s part.”

Ruschel’s physical recovery is ongoing. He was recently discharged after three weeks in hospital and was able to walk again for the first time.

The 27-year-old said he hoped to play football again one day.

When I got here today I had the sensation that I was coming home,” he said. “I promise to give lots more happiness to this team. With a lot of effort and hard work I am going to be back playing again soon.”