It was a personal victory for Brazilian goalkeeper Jakson Follmann when he took his first steps since surviving a plane crash that wiped out his football club.
Follmann was the reserve goalie of Chapecoense, which went from the most feelgood team in football-mad Brazil to a national tragedy. This was a lowly club that had fought its way to the finals of the regional Copa Sudamericana regional tournament. Then on November 28, almost the whole team was wiped out when the plane flying the players to Medellin, Colombia, for the big game crashed.
Seventy one people died, including the star first choice goalkeeper Danilo. Follmann lost his right leg but was one of six miraculous survivors. Now the athlete, 24, is drawing on all his competitive spirit and discipline to rebuild his life.
“My main desire now is to be able to stand up, to walk,” he told AFP at the rehab center where he is learning to walk with a prosthetic leg and to overcome multiple other injuries.
Almost three months after the accident he has taken his first unaided steps. There’s much more to come.
“I want to be able to go alone to the bathroom, to brush my teeth. All the simple things that people barely notice usually,” he said.
Follmann left his home in the southern city of Alecrim when he was just 13, working his way through the gritty lower leagues, but always dreaming of making it to the first division. The tragic reversal of what had seemed like a fairy tale success has not broken Follmann.
“Crying over this and feeling sorry for myself will not help,” he said in a soft voice.
Follmann may be up again, but after several operations and 56 days in hospital every step is filled with pain. Since February he’s been doing physiotherapy in Sao Paulo with Doctor Jose Andre Carvalho and his progress has been better than expected.
In addition to losing his right leg below the knee, his left ankle was badly injured, he broke several bones and needed an operation on his spine. It’s a battering that has required him to hold back his sportsman’s instinct for action.
Chapecoense goalkeeper Jackson Follmann says he wants to play in the Paralympics after losing a leg in November’s plane crash in Colombia.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Players of Brazil’s Chapecoense football club participate in a tribute to their fellow players killed in a plane crash Monday night in Colombia, at the club’s stadium in Chapeco, Santa Catarina, Brazil, on November 30, 2016.