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Andes 'cannibal' team finally plays match

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Thirty years ago, the world was horrified by news that Uruguayan rugby players survived the crash of their chartered plane in the Andes by eating the flesh of dead team mates.

Now the same school alumni team, the Old Christians, including 12 survivors of the crash, have flown to Chile to play on Saturday the match that never took place in 1972. Their opponents will be the same team it was to have been then, made up of alumni of the Grange School in Santiago de Chile.

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One of the survivors still playing for Old Christians was asked whether he was afraid to fly. "No, I am not afraid," replied Carlos Paez. "Besides, if something should happen, we've got the know-how."

The survivors found themselves without food in arctic conditions on the snow-encrusted peak where they endured for 72 days before being found. There were 16 survivors and 29 dead. Those who survived were only able to do by resorting to cannibalism.

Two of the original team members refused to hop on the plane taking them to this Saturday's symbolic 10-minute match with the Old Grangeonians.

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But among those who went on Friday's flight to Chile, according to news reports, the climate on board was cheerfully rowdy, much as it was 30 years ago. So much so, in fact, the plane's captain had to tell his passengers that while he was honored to have them aboard he would have to apply sanctions according to international procedures if they didn't stay in their seats.

Flight attendants had to juggle through the aisles to serve food, only to discover, curiously, there were not enough meals.

Alvaro Alonso, another survivor and currently Uruguay's minister of work and social welfare, traveling first class, taunted his friends in economy class by asking, "Did you get sushi, too?"

One Old Christian, Fernando Parrado, refused to go to Chile because he said he does not like "this type of event."

Parrado, who made a heroic 10-day trek out of the mountains to alert rescuers, said after the survivors were saved that, "It was far more difficult for us to fight against the thirst and the cold then to eat human flesh."

The turbo-propeller airplane carrying the rugby team clipped and tumbled down a mountain in the Andes in October 1972. Wind conditions made the pilot believe mistakenly that he had already cleared the rugged and dangerous range on Chile's eastern border.

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(Leandro Prada reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina.)

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