Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala’s private plane disappeared near the Channel Islands on Monday evening. An extensive search and rescue operation was going on to find the footballer but all the ongoing efforts were suspended at 5 pm on Tuesday with Guernsey police admitting that the chances of survival are slim. Last Saturday, Emiliano Sala signed the contract to play for Cardiff City.
The Argentinean, who had played in France since 2012, made Cardiff City history when he was bought for a record fee of £18m on a three-and-a-half year deal from Nantes at the weekend. In one of his last social media posts, he shared a photo with his former teammates, writing “Ciao” and adding heart emojis.
One of his former teammates had taken him to the airport for his flight and Nantes also have postponed their Wednesday night French Cup game. Although Sala played youth football in Argentina, he spent his whole senior career in France. He joined Bordeaux in 2012 and went on loan to three clubs before signing for Nantes in 2015, where he was a hugely popular figure as well as a prolific footballer. “He was the spirit of football,” said Thomas Renault, who played alongside Sala for US Orléans. “The kind of professional player who never gives up, who works. Everyone said the same wherever he went.”
Staffs, players and supporters of Cardiff City and Nantes are heartbroken after hearing the news that the plane had gone missing with Sala on board.
“After all this time the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there … I am not expecting anyone to be alive. I don’t think the coastguard are either. We just don’t know how it disappeared,” John Fitzgerald, the Channel Islands air search chief officer, told the Associated Press while closing the search operation for the night.
Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo said, “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation. We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot. All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans and the entire football family for their support at this difficult time. We continue to pray for positive news.”
The plane left Nantes in north-west France at 19:15 and had been flying at 5,000 ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent, Guernsey Police said. The plane lost contact while at 2,300 ft and disappeared off radar near the Casquets lighthouse, infamous among mariners as the site of many shipwrecks, eight miles (13km) north-west of Alderney.
Choo was with Sala in Cardiff when the transfer was sealed and said the player had described the move as “one of the best days in his life”. Choo added, “You could see from the face he was so happy to be here and so ready to start … We really feel sad to hear of this news because we have met such a great person.”
Nantes’ president, Waldemar Kita, said, “I’ll always have hope, he’s a fighter. It’s not over, maybe he’s somewhere.”
Local journalist Arnaud Wajdzik said the atmosphere in Nantes was “very emotional”, and hundreds of fans gathered in Place Royale, Nantes to lay tulips at a fountain. The gesture is a tribute to Sala and the pilot on board the flight.
Source – bbc.com, new.sky.com, theguradian.com, mirror.co.uk