Cardiff City’s players and manager have been speaking for the first time about the disappearance of their new club-record signing Emliano Sala.
Sala signed for Premier League side Cardiff on Jan. 19 from Nantes for a club-record fee, reported to be close to $19 million. He then flew back to Nantes to say goodbye to his former teammates and collect some belongings before flying back to Wales for his first training session two days later.
The small aircraft which was carrying the 28-year-old Argentine striker from Nantes to Cardiff disappeared from radars last Monday evening near the island of Alderney in the English Channel.
Pilot David Ibbotson was the only other person on board the aircraft and neither he or Sala have been found, with Guernsey Police calling off their extensive three-day search last Thursday. However, a private search has begun at the request of Sala’s family and thanks to the funding of over $340,000 online, mostly from star Argentine players, and many others around the globe.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock, who travelled to meet Sala on numerous occasions over the past few months to convince him to sign for the club, was understandable emotional.
“You think 24 hours a day about whether to carry on,” Warnock said. “It’s impossible to sleep. I’ve been in football management for 40 years and it’s been by far the most difficult week in my career, by an absolute mile. It’s been a traumatic week and even now I can’t get my head around the situation. It’s probably hit me harder than anyone else as I’ve met the lad and talked to him for the last six to eight weeks.”
The Bluebirds travel to Arsenal on Tuesday to play in their first game since the tragic disappearance of Sala, with the club and the rest of the Premier League planning to pay its respects to Sala. Cardiff’s captain Sol Bamba will lay down a bunch of yellow daffodils before the game to honor Sala, as that flower is synonymous with Wales and is also the same color of the home jersey he wore at Nantes. Arsenal will lay down some tulips and then some words about the incident will be said over the PA system, as an image of Sala will appear on the screen.
Sala’s family have asked for no black armbands to be worn in the game, while they also do not want a minute of silence as they still have hope the striker survived the airplane disappearing.
Bamba added that the playing staff at Cardiff also have hope there is a happy ending, and admitted that he has never seen the dressing room as quiet as it has been in recent days.
“It’s a human tragedy and if you’re human, you’re going to be hurt by it,” Bamba said. “You’re right to feel like that, it’s a tragedy. If you’ve got a heart, you’re going to be affected by it. From the minute he signed for us and came to see the boys to say hello, he was part of us, so everyone feels like he is part of the team.
“Obviously training was called off when we heard, but the next day we got together and everyone was in shock. It was a tough week for everyone, we’ve all been hurt and affected by it. Everyone got together and obviously everyone has been talking to make sure we’re all okay. But it was a tough week. I’ve never seen the dressing room that quiet, everyone was so sad and it was a shock really. We have to hope, even if the chances are very slim, but we like to think there can be a happy ending hopefully.”