Arsenal's Gabriel breaks down during tribute to the late Chapecoense coach Caio Junior
Arsenal football club’s Brazilian defender, Gabriel Paulista, broke into tears after delivering an emotional message to the family members of the deceased Chapecoense players and his former coach Caio Junior, who was also the coach of Chapecoense FC.
Caio Junior was one of the seventy-one people who were killed in the plane crash in Medellin earlier this week.
Gabriel, who considers the 51-year-old as a good friend, couldn’t control his emotions as he spoke about the victims and their family during an interview with Arsenal’s in-house club media. His emotional tribute video was posted on the club’s official Twitter account.
Gabriel was part of the team that lost 2-0 against Southampton in the EFL Cup quarter-final which was held at the Emirates stadium where a minute’s silence was observed in respect of the players who lost their lives in the plane crash. The Brazilian played under Caio Junior during his days at Brazilian football club, Vitória.
“This is really hard to take. It is something we never imagine will happen with us or a close friend,” Gabriel said. “I played for Vitória for five years and I worked with the coach and the backroom staff, and two other players as well. We were very close friends.
“The minimum I can do is send my condolences to all their families and wish that they can carry on. I ask for strength for this team that enchanted Brazilian football, a group that five years ago was in the fourth division and surprised everybody. We only have good memories to keep in our hearts from this team and the friends I made through football.”
The Arsenal defender also regrets not talking to Caio Júnior on his birthday as he kept it to himself for another day, but now that this tragedy had occurred he feels no one should leave anything for tomorrow when you can do it today.
“We have a message group from Brazil, and I texted them to say “don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do for today. I say that because on my last birthday [Saturday] I felt this urge to talk to Caio Júnior and for some reason, I left it for another day, and then this tragedy happens. So, if you think you want to do something, just get out there and do it because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.”
The Chapecoense team were on their way to the Copa Sudamericana final match against Colombian side Atletico Nacional, but the flight in which they were making their journey crashed late on Monday night. Only three players from the Chapecoense squad survived the deadly crash - reserve goalkeeper Jackson Ragnar Follmann, centre-back Helio Hermito Zampier Neto and defender Alan Luciano Ruschel.
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