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Rio declares three days of mourning after fire kills 10 teenage footballers | Football

Rio de Janeiro has declared three days of mourning as investigators seek to determine the cause of the fire that killed 10 teenage footballers at the training centre of the city’s Flamengo football club on Friday morning.

Cláudio Castro, the vice governor of Rio de Janeiro state, said authorities were looking at the possibility of a short circuit in an air conditioning unit.

Samuel Barbosa, a 16-year-old player who survived the fire, told Globo TV news that a lot of smoke had filled the dorm. “Most didn’t make it because there was so much fire,” he said.

The city said in a statement that the area burned was registered for parking, not as a dormitory, and that an investigation into the licensing process was underway.

Aerial footage shows aftermath of fire at Flamengo training centre – video

Beatriz Busch, the state’s public health secretary, said three other players had been injured in the fire. Two were in stable condition, but the third was critically ill.

Several people who appeared to be relatives entered the complex on Friday night without speaking to reporters. Some were crying.

“We are distraught,” Flamengo’s president, Rodolfo Landim, said outside the complex. “This is the worst tragedy to happen to the club in its 123 years. “The most important thing right now is to minimise the suffering of these families.”

Rio’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, ordered three days of mourning, while Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, lamented the fire had taken “the young lives at the beginning of pursuing their professional dreams”.

Latin America’s largest nation suffers from shoddy infrastructure, often exacerbated by lax oversight of construction and endemic corruption.

Sebastião Rodrigues, 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,” he said. “He liked the environment and his teammates there.”

Sebastiao Rodrigues, the uncle of one of the young players who died in the fire. Photograph: Léo Corrêa/AP

The identities of those killed were not released but their names emerged through family members and survivors.

The Associated Press reported that the victims included goalkeeper Christian, 15, who was a regular in Brazil’s youth teams and reportedly had already attracted the attention of several top European clubs.

Defender Pablo, 14, had been with Flamengo since last year and his cousin, Werley, was already playing professionally with rival Vasco da Gama.

Forward Athila, 14, had joined Flamengo from the same academy where Atlético Madrid striker Costa played as a teenager before thriving internationally.

“Sad news,” Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior said on Twitter.

Júnior had lived in the same complex that was destroyed on Friday before Real Madrid bought him for nearly €45m (now $51m) less than two years ago.

“It gives me the chills to remember the nights and days that I spent at the training centre,” the 18-year-old Brazilian said. “I still can’t believe it, I’m praying for all of them.”

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

Two young women, wearing Flamengo soccer kits, embrace at a mass in memory of the fire’s victims.

Two young women wearing Flamengo soccer kits embrace at a mass in memory of the fire’s victims. Photograph: Léo Corrêa/AP

“It’s a sad day for Brazilian soccer,” tweeted Pelé, 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. Supporters are so attached to their academy team that players have a motto for them: “Flamengo makes legends at home.”

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 Júnior.

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