Gabriel breaks down in emotional message to Chapecoense

The Arsenal defender paid tribute to the 71 lives lost in the plane crash late on Monday, with Caio Junior, his former coach at Vitoria, among those who were killed

Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista broke down in tears while recording an emotional message to Chapecoense following the plane crash which killed 71 people.

Nineteen of the Brazilian team's players were among those who lost their life in the tragedy, which occured while they were travelling to Medellin in Colombia to face Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final.

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Gabriel held up a banner reading #ForcaChape before Arsenal's EFL Cup fixture against Southampton on Wednesday night and later expressed his grief over the loss of life, with his former coach at Vitoria, Caio Junior, among those killed.

"It's a bit hard to talk about what happened," he told Arsenal's official website. "I wish the families can have strength and I hope God can comfort their hearts.

"I had many friends over there, I played for Vitoria for five years and I worked with the coach [Caio Junior] and the backroom staff, and two other players as well. We were very close friends.

"This is really hard to take. It's something we never imagine will happen with us or with a close friend. The minimum I can do is send my condolences to all their families and wish that they can carry on.

"I know it's not easy to lose a member of the family. I know it from experience - I've lost a brother myself and I know how painful it is.

"I ask for strength for this team that enchanted Brazilian football, a group that five years ago was in the fourth division and surprised everyone. We have only good memories to keep in our hearts from this team and the friends I made through football.

"We have a message group from Brazil and I texted them to say 'don't leave for tomorrow what you can do today'.

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"I say that because on my last birthday I felt this urge to talk to Caio Junior and for some reason I left it for another day, and then this tragedy happens.

"So if you think you want to do something just get out there and do it because we don't know what tomorrow brings."