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Fans gather after fire kills 10 at Brazilian football academy

Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim caled it the ‘worst tragedy’ to happen to the club in its 123 years.

Friends, fans and neighbours have gathered outside the academy for Brazil’s popular professional football club Flamengo after a fire swept through sleeping quarters, killing 10 people and injuring three teenagers.

Firefighters were called just after 5am on Friday to the sprawling Ninho de Urubu training grounds in Rio de Janeiro’s western region.

“We are distraught,” Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim said outside the complex, where people gathered, some in prayer.

“This is the worst tragedy to happen to the club in its 123 years.”

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Fans hold hands as they pray at the Flamengo club training complex in Rio de Janeiro (Leo Correa/AP)

He did not take questions from reporters who also were outside the complex but added: “The most important thing right now is to minimise the suffering of these families.”

The cause of the fire was not known, but Claudio Castro, vice governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, said authorities were looking at the possibility of a short circuit in an air conditioning unit.

In a statement, the city said the area that burned was registered for parking, not as a dormitory. The statement said an investigation into the licensing process was under way.

Sebastian Rodriguez, the uncle of one of the players who died, 15-year-old Samuel Thomas Rosa, said his nephew never complained about the conditions.

“He never told me anything bad about the training centre,” Mr Rodriguez said. “He liked the environment and his teammates there.”

Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella ordered three days of mourning, and President Jair Bolsonaro issued a statement lamenting the fire had taken “the young lives at the beginning of pursuing their professional dreams”.

Passion for football runs deep in Brazil, and as news of the tragedy spread, many of the world’s best players and top officials expressed condolences.

“It’s a sad day for Brazilian soccer,” tweeted Pele, the country’s most famous player.

Chapecoense, a team in southern Brazil that lost 22 players in a plane crash in 2016, said on Twitter: “We are extremely sad and shaken by the news of the fire.”

Flamengo is perhaps the most famous club in the country, with an estimated 40 million fans nationwide.

Among the most famous players to come through the club are Ronaldinho and Zico, former stars on Brazil’s national team; top goal-scorer Adriano, who rose to fame at Inter Milan; and current Real Madrid star Vinicius, Jr, who not long ago was living in the building destroyed by the fire.

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Two young women, wearing Flamengo soccer kits, embrace as they attend a memorial mass for the victims of the fire (Leo Correa/AP)

Caros Eduardo Araujo, a fan who left a bouquet of flowers at the gate of the complex. “I’ve been shaking since I heard the news.”

Samuel Barbosa, 16-year-old who survived the fire, told Globo TV news that a lot of smoke filled the dorm.

“Most didn’t make it because there was so much fire,” he said.

Joao Pedro da Cruz, a 16-year-old player in the Flamengo youth league, told the G1 news portal that he decided not to spend the night at the facility because the team was not going to train on Friday, and he went to a friend’s house instead.

“The majority of them (the team) stayed, my friends stayed (at the facility),” he said. “Today I woke up and heard this terrible news.”

Press Association

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