A major fire outbreak has engulfed a dormitory at the youth team training centre of one of Brazil’s biggest football clubs, killing 10 people.
The victims have not been identified but are said to include young players staying at Ninho de Urubu, the training ground of Flamengo football club in Rio de Janeiro.
Three teenagers were also injured, with one young player stating that the fire started in an air conditioner in his room.
“The air conditioner caught fire, and I ran out,” said Felipe Cardoso, a player with the under-17 side. “Thank God I managed to run and I’m still alive.”
Flamengo is one of Brazil’s biggest and best-known clubs internationally. They play in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A league where they finished in second place last season and club president Rodolfo Landim told reporters this was “without a doubt the worst tragedy this club has been through” in its 123-year history.
“The most important thing now is for us to try to minimise the pain and suffering of these families”. Brazil football legend Pelé described the club as “a place where young people pursue their dreams”.
“It’s a very sad day for Brazilian football,” he tweeted. Brazilian forward and Paris Saint-Germain player Neymar posted the club’s crest on Instagram, writing: “My sentiments.”
President Jair Bolsonaro, who is receiving treatment for pneumonia, tweeted a statement from the hospital “in solidarity” with the mourning families. He said the tragedy made victims of young people “on the journey to realising their professional dreams”.
According to Country profile, the youth players are said to be aged between 14 and 16. One of the three injured, a 15-year-old boy, suffered severe burns and was transferred to a specialist hospital, reports said.
“The place was completely overtaken by fire,” he said.The area has been hit by severe storms and heavy rain in recent days and the weather may have left the facility without water or electricity when the fire struck, G1 reported.
Flamengo is one of the few Brazilian clubs that can boast an expressive national fan base in Brazil. A poll released last April suggested they are the first team for 32.5 million Brazilians.
The club is also proud of the tradition of its youth academy – their motto is “we make our star players at home” – which will make this tragedy even sadder.
The club’s most prominent former players include World Cup winners Ronaldinho, Bebeto and Romario.
As well as being one of Brazil’s most successful football clubs, Flamengo also has basketball, rowing, swimming and volleyball teams.
The club was due to play its rivals Fluminense on Saturday. The game has been postponed, and other clubs have expressed their condolences.
Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior, who also played for Flamengo, tweeted a crying emoji, writing, “Such sad news. Pray for everyone. Strength strength, strength.”
And former Brazil star and Flamengo player Ronaldinho offered his condolences for the “terrible tragedy” in a tweet on Friday morning. He published the club’s crest in black-and-white alongside the message.
Just over two years ago, Brazil’s football world was rocked by disaster when a plane carrying top football team Chapecoense crashed in Colombia.
Of the 77 people on board, 71 lost their lives.
By Olukayode Oniwinde