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A plane carrying a beloved soccer team crashed in Colombia, killing almost everyone on board

The final death toll is unclear.

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A charter plane carrying 81 people, including members of an upstart Brazilian soccer team that had won national acclaim for an unexpected march to a championship match, crashed in the mountains of Colombia Monday night, killing almost everyone on board.

The team, which formed in the 1970s and had struggled to break from the country’s fourth-tier division until 2007, was en route to the biggest game in its history. The team, called Chapecoense, was to compete against the Colombian club Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the South American Cup finals, the second most prestigious soccer tournament in the region, on Wednesday.

"It's a Cinderella football story. They've only been in the top division in Brazil for the last couple of years, and they've reached the Copa Sudamericana final," Keir Radnedge of World Soccer magazine told CNN. "What they have achieved in the last couple of years was just amazing."

The crash on the outskirts of the city of Medellíin has devastated Brazilian soccer fans struck by the once-obscure team’s surprising rise. The team’s low profile and scant attendance led the tournament’s organizers to rule that its 22,000 seat arena was too small to host a home match, according to ESPN. The game was instead moved to a stadium in Curitiba, some 300 miles away, the sports network reported.

The team doesn’t have a natural analogue in US sports, but in the broader world of sports the closest parallel might be the stunning success of Leicester City in England’s Premier League.

“Before boarding, they said they were seeking to turn their dream into reality,” said Plínio David de Nes Filho, chair of the board overseeing the Chapecoense club, according to the New York Times. “This morning, that dream is over.”

Before crashing, the pilot of the ill-fated plane reported that the aircraft had complete electrical failure and had run out of fuel. It then slammed into a mountainside, about 22 miles from the Medellíin airport.

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Reports of casualties fluctuated over the course of the night. Early reports indicated that 75 people died and six survived, but other more recent reports indicate that one of the survivors pulled from the wreckage later died. Authorities have not released a final tally.

People killed on the flight include 21 journalists.

It was far from the first time airplane disasters have rocked the world of sports. In 1970, a plane carrying 37 members of Marshall University’s football team crashed in West Virginia after a match in North Carolina. It later inspired the 2006 movie We Are Marshall.

In 2011, a private jet carrying members of a professional Russian hockey team crashed about 150 miles from Moscow shortly after taking off. The accident left 44 dead and shocked Russia both and hockey fans the world over.

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