Colombian Plane Crash: Who are Brazilian football team Chapecoense?

There were 81 people on board a plane that went down in Colombia early this morning

Chapecoense

Image: Andre Penner / AP/Press Association Images

Chapecoense had recently broken into the top tier of Brazilian football and were preparing to play in their first final of South America's major club competition.

It was a small club in the middle of a fairytale season - until the plane carrying them crashed in Colombia.

Chapecoense were founded in 1973 in the city of Chapeco, in the state of Santa Caterina, southern Brazil. It is home to about 200,000 people.

The team went on to win the state championship within a few years, and would add a few more. But big-league football eluded them for a long time. 

Then, in 2014, it entered Brazil's first division, the Serie A, for the first time since the 1970s, and this year it made the finals of the Copa Sudamericana - South America's equivalent of the Europa League. Chapecoense were travelling to Medellín to face Atletico Nacional for the first leg of the final when the plane carrying 81 passengers crashed.

The tournament has now been suspended indefinitely. 

The team were filmed celebrating in the locker room after it defeated, against the odds, Argentinian powerhouse San Lorenzo de Almagro in the Copa semi-finals. Goalkeeper Danilo, a 31-year-old journeyman, made headlines for stopping San Lorenzo from scoring.

Chapecoense players celebrate at the end of a Copa Sudamericana semi-final against Argentina's San Lorenzo in Chapeco, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. The match ended 1-1 on aggregate, meaning Chapecoense progressed to the final. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

They were the underdogs in what would have been the final against Atletico Nacional. The first leg was due to be played on Wednesday. Chapecoense were the 21st biggest club in Brazil in terms of revenue.

As recent as 2009, Chapecoense played in the fourth division (Serie D) of the Brazilian football league. Back-to-back promotions in 2012 and 2013 saw them rise through Serie C and Serie B to reach Brazil's top flight.

In 2014 and 2015 they enjoyed finishes of 14th and 15th position respectively.