Chapecoense's longest serving employee helps club rebuild

    Story highlights

    • Jorge Luis de Andrade staying on at Chapecoense
    • Team assistant had been set to retire
    • Plane crash which killed most of team changed his mind

    (CNN)Jorge Luis de Andrade thought he was entering the final chapter of his career at Chapecoense.

    Instead, the long-serving team assistant finds himself at the dawn of a new beginning.
      Andrade has agreed to stay on with the Chape for at least one more season following November's plane crash that killed 71 people including dozens of his friends and colleagues at the club.
      "Chapecoense today means my life. I am 20 years at the club," an emotional Andrade told CNN. "I created roots in the city. Everything that I have accomplished is thanks to Chapecoense."
      The longest serving employee at the tiny team from the town of Chapeco in southern Brazil -- he started there in 1995 -- Andrade says he used to joke with one of the club's former directors that his blood was green.
      Chapecoense play first game since plane crash
      Chapecoense play first game since plane crash


        Chapecoense play first game since plane crash


      Chapecoense play first game since plane crash 02:44
      Back in 1995, Chapecoense was languishing in Brazil's lower leagues and Andrade has watched on as the team rose from near obscurity to become one of the most formidable in South America.
      Before the crash, Chapecoense was in the midst of a fairytale season. It was on its way to compete in its first continental final when the plane carrying the team went down on approach to Jose Maria Cordova International airport in Medellin, Colombia.


      Like all connected with Chapecoense, Andrade was devastated. He walked out of a remembrance service two days after the crash to seek treatment from a psychologist.
      He says he struggled to cope with the emotion of it all.
      "The moment I felt the most sadness was the day the caskets arrived. I didn't go there (on the field where the caskets were placed)."
      "I was used to them scoring goals, running around the goal. I was not ready to see all those caskets underneath the goal."

      'We'll meet again'

      Andrade says he'll see the players again one day when he will be able to thank them for the joy they provided and for putting Chapeco on the world map.
      He believes that the spirits of the departed are inspiring the new players who have joined the club as it attempts to rebuild.
      Chapecoense soccer team recovers after tragedy
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        Chapecoense soccer team recovers after tragedy


      Chapecoense soccer team recovers after tragedy 03:09
      "I feel that they are helping us in one way with their energy and that wonderful football that they showed us."
      "My impression is that I feel that energy is being passed on to the new team."
      Chape's reconstruction has been remarkably quick. The accident occurred less than two months ago and every step forward is laden with emotion.
      The club played a friendly match at the weekend, it's first since the disaster, with a raft of new players signed to replace those who perished making their first appearances.
      Andrade believes the recovery will have renewed impetus when the surviving players Alan Ruschel and Neto can take the field again later this year
      The team kicks off the new season at home on Thursday against southern Brazilian rivals Joinville and Andrade knows it will be a difficult season ahead.
      But he hopes they can stay in Brazil's Serie A, the country's top division, when that competition begins later in 2017.
      Only then, could he begin to consider retirement.