Hundreds of grief-stricken people on Sunday attended the funeral of 15-year-old Christian Esmerio Candido, one of the ten young soccer players killed in a fire at the training ground of Brazilian soccer club Flamengo.
Wearing white T-shirts with Candido’s photo, relatives, friends and Flamengo fans sang the team’s anthem and chanted “Flamengo, Flamengo” as they accompanied the coffin at Rio de Janeiro’s Iraja cemetery.
The goalkeeper was considered a rising star and had already played for Brazil’s national team’s youth division.
Alan Silva, the boy’s uncle, said his nephew’s dream was to help his parents leave the shantytown where they live and become a starter with the national team.
“But unfortunately, we lost a great player; a great warrior,” he said.
The death of Candido and his teammates has shed a tragic light on the state of shoddy infrastructure and lax oversight in Latin America’s largest nation.
The incident came just two weeks after the Jan. 25 dam collapse in Brazil unleashed a flood of mining waste in Minas Gerais state, killing at least 157 people and leaving almost as many missing.
On Wednesday night and early Thursday, torrential downpours and strong winds also killed at least seven people, conditions which the Flamengo club CEO suggested may have led to unstable electricity that sparked the blaze.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, although city hall officials have said they were investigating a possible short circuit in the centre’s air conditioning system.
City hall also said the sleeping quarters where Flamengo’s players died was irregularly licensed as a parking lot.
“The lodging area hit by the fire is not included in the last project approved by our licensing,” a statement said. “There are no registers of new licensing requests for that area as a sleeping quarter.”
Flamengo has been fined 31 times because of infractions at the training ground, which had to be temporarily closed in October 2017. The club has not paid 21 of those fines, city hall said.
Three teenagers injured in the fire are still in the hospital. Two have been released from the intensive care units and one remains in serious condition.
Bernardo Pisetta, 14, and Vitor Isaias, 15, both from the southern state of Santa Catarina, were also buried Sunday.