Photo courtesy of Cardiff City FC
28-year-old Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala arrived at FC Nantes in 2015 for a small fee of one million euros (roughly $1,134,000) and established himself as an efficient goalscorer for his club, scoring 42 goals in 120 appearances. Sala attracted the attention of newly promoted English Premier League (EPL) side, Cardiff City F.C during the Winter Transfer Window and both sides agreed to a fee of 11 million euros (roughly $14,250,000), making Sala Cardiff City’s most expensive transfer of all time. Sala had established himself as a fan favorite in FC Nantes and fans wished him nothing but success in the “EPL” as Cardiff City fans eagerly awaited his arrival.
However, that arrival would never come, as on January 21, news that the aircraft transporting Sala from Nantes, France to Cardiff, Wales had gone missing broke out, which left the footballing world in a state of shock and confusion.
Sala had not flown on a commercial jet. Instead, he was flown out on a small aircraft that was privately piloted. At the time of this article being written, the cause of the accident is not known, but it was initially reported missing over the English Channel. Search and rescue efforts went underway almost immediately, but were frequently halted over the next several days due to the harsh weather and water conditions. The search officially concluded on January 24, as the spokesman for the rescue operations described chances of survival as “extremely remote.”
However, Sala’s family and agency, with the support of footballers such as fellow Argentines Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, and donations from the fans, were able to fund a private underwater search using submarines, and together with the Government organization Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the United Kingdom, were successful in locating the wreckage among the waters. The plane was found on February 4, submerged a little over half a mile away from where it had gone missing with reports that a body was found still in it.
On February 7, the body was identified as that of Emiliano Sala.
During the time of the search for Sala, football players and fans across the world sent their condolences to the family of Sala, hoping for a miracle that he would be found alive. Football Club (FC) Nantes fans shed tears and displayed Argentina flags as they chanted the name of their favorite goalscorer during their home game vs Sports Association (AS) Saint-Étienne. Cardiff City FC and AFC Bournemouth paid tribute to Sala by laying out daffodils in the center of the pitch and holding a minute of silence in the stadium before their match, as both players and fans were overcome with emotion from the events that had transpired.
Breaking the formal tone of the article for a bit, I, as a huge football fan, have been following Sala’s career for some time now and was excited to see he had finally been picked up by a top-flight team. When I heard the news, I was speechless. Sala was only 28, and in arguably in the best years of his career. I feel incredibly sorry for his family, who must have gone through two weeks of hell during this entire rescue mission. The death of a player in a sport you love, it hits you. It hits you hard.
Rest In Peace, Emiliano Sala
“Sing a song for Sala
We will never let you go,
You’ll always be,
At the city here with me”