Ex-Brazil striker Fernandao dies in helicopter accident

Better known as Fernandao, former Marseille and Internacional front man Fernando Lucio da Costa was killed in a helicopter crash in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The 36-year-old was travelling with four other people, all of whom were killed when the helicopter came down en route to Goiania, the capital of Goias state, after taking off from the ex-player’s home in the city of Aruana. The other victims were named as Edmílson de Sousa Leme (Palmeiras de Goias municipal counsellor), Bidó Antônio de Pádua, Lindomar (farm worker) and Milton Ananias, the pilot.

According to the Civil Police, the helicopter was found on a sand bank by the River Araguaia, a mere 15 kilometres from Aruana.

"I want to express my deep sadness by the tragic death of former Goias EC and SC Internacional striker Fernandao," FIFA President Blatter wrote in a letter to Fernandao's family. "In FIFA he will be particularly remembered by the brilliant 2006 season, when he captained SC Internacional to the FIFA Club World Cup title in Japan. 

"I'd like to express my condolences to his family and friends. Please let them know that the football community is by their side. I hope that these words may bring a small consolation in this moment of grief."

Born in Goiania, Fernandao began his career with local club Goias before signing for Olympique Marseille in 2001. After a brief stay on loan at Toulouse, he returned to Brazil in 2004 to play for Internacional, where he enjoyed the best spell of his career, winning the Rio Grande do Sul title twice, the Copa Libertadores and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006. He had the honour of lifting that last trophy as captain, a position he held for most of the five seasons he spent with O Colorado.

His first appearance for the Porto Alegre side came in a Gre-Nal derby meeting with crosstown rivals Gremio in July 2004, a game in which he scored his side’s winner, the 1000th goal in the history of the fixture. 

After also running out for Sao Paulo in the Copa Libertadores, the forward decided to retire in 2011, promptly becoming a director at his beloved Inter and later the club’s coach. The master of ceremonies at the reopening of the Beira-Rio, the former striker was also working for the channel SporTV as a football commentator. 

“We are immensely saddened by the untimely death of our idol,” read an official statement released by Internacional. “What stays with us are the glorious memories of a striker who honoured the Internacional jersey with his spirit of leadership and was one of the most important players in the club’s 105-year history.”