Hopes fade for Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala as final message emerges

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An image of Emiliano Sala as part of a tribute outside Cardiff City Stadium. (Reuters)
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FC Nantes supporters look at a floral tribute two days after it was announced that the plane carrying Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes to Cardiff in Wales. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2019

Hopes fade for Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala as final message emerges

  • Floating objects have been found in the water, and police on the British island of Guernsey, which sits off the north coast of France, have warned the chances of the passengers surviving were slim
  • Sala, who signed with the Premier League club on Saturday from French Ligue 1 club Nantes for a reported fee of €17 million was due to attend a training session with Cardiff on Tuesday

ST PETER PORT, Guernsey: Hopes faded on Wednesday of finding a missing plane carrying Cardiff City’s record new signing Emiliano Sala, as it emerged the Argentine striker had sent relatives a desperate message shortly before the light aircraft disappeared over the Channel.
Floating objects have been found in the water, and police on the British island of Guernsey, which sits off the north coast of France, have warned the chances of the passengers surviving were “slim.”
As rescuers in three planes and a helicopter scoured the sea, Argentine media reported that Sala sent a final message before the plane disappeared from radar around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.
“I’m on a plane that looks like it’s going to fall apart, and I’m leaving for Cardiff,” the 28-year-old said in a rambling WhatsApp audio message.
“If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don’t know if they will send people to look for me, because they will not find me, you know... I’m so scared,” he added.
The player’s mother, Mercedes, told Argentine television channel C5N that the plane belonged to Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman, but he disputed the claim.
“I can say to you categorically that the plane had nothing to do with Cardiff City,” he said.
Dalman said the club had offered to pay for his flight but Sala had “made his own arrangements.”
“I can’t tell you who arranged the flight because I don’t know.”
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is investigating, said the single-engine Piper PA-46 Malibu plane was registered in the United States.
But the identity of the pilot, the only other person in the plane, has not been officially confirmed.
Sala, who signed with the Premier League club on Saturday from French Ligue 1 club Nantes for a reported fee of €17 million ($19.3 million), was due to attend a training session with Cardiff on Tuesday.
Rescuers on Tuesday said they had covered an area of 1,155 square miles (3,000 square-kilometer) in the Channel spotted “a number of floating objects in the water.”
In an update on Wednesday, Guernsey Coast Guard captain David Barker said there was “as yet no trace today of the missing aircraft.”
The pilot had requested to lower his altitude shortly before air traffic control in neighboring Jersey lost contact with the plane.
Rescuers’ hopes rest in the possibility that the passengers are in a life raft, which has so far evaded detection.
But Ken Fairbank, a former AAIB investigator, said it was “extremely unlikely now that anyone would be found alive, even assuming the aircraft made a controlled ditching.”
Fairbank said details were still sketchy but weather “may have been a factor... as it seems to have been overcast and with some mist at the Channel Islands airports.”
In Sala’s Argentine hometown of Progreso, his father Horacio told the press that as “the hours go by and I don’t know anything, it makes me fear the worst.”
Sala, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.
Cardiff’s executive director Ken Choo said they were all “very shocked” at the news.
“We continue to pray for positive news,” he said.
Cardiff called off Tuesday’s training session, and stunned supporters laid flowers and scarves outside the club’s stadium.
“The excitement of a new signing arriving at your club can bring so much happiness. That’s how we felt about Sala,” said Cardiff fan Josh Thomas, 24.
“He was the one who was going to turn our fortunes around and score the goals that would keep us up. He was going to be the one adored by the fans, including me. But within a few hours so much has changed.”
Argentine football legend Diego Maradona said he was hoping the plane had simply gone astray.
“I hope it went to the wrong airport and we find him alive, that’s all,” he said in an audio message.
Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari, also an Argentinian, said: “We feel great sadness of course and we send all the strength and love in the world to the relatives, close friends, and people that know him.”
“And of course we never lose hope until the end,” he said.
With his former teammates in shock, Nantes have postponed their French Cup tie against third-tier side Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien on Wednesday until Sunday.
Hundreds of fans gathered for a vigil in the western French city on Tuesday, placing flowers, scarves and flags on a fountain and chanting the striker’s name.
“I still have hope, he is a fighter,” Nantes president Waldemar Kita tweeted.


Premier League legend Ashley Cole announces retirement, plans move into coaching

Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

Premier League legend Ashley Cole announces retirement, plans move into coaching

LONDON: Former England defender Ashley Cole is planning a move into coaching after announcing his retirement from football.

Cole won 13 major titles during his 20-year career, including the 2012 Champions League with Chelsea, three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

The 38-year-old Cole, who also won 107 caps for England, announced his retirement Sunday while working as a pundit on British broadcaster Sky Sports.

"After hard thinking and consideration, it was obviously time to hang my boots up and look towards my next chapter, which will hopefully be coaching. I'm doing a course at the moment," Cole said. "Now I want to be great at being a coach."

Cole said he was most proud of his haul of England caps. Only Peter Shilton, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Bobby Moore have made more appearances for the country.

Cole began his career with Arsenal and, after a brief loan spell at Crystal Palace, went on to make more than 200 appearances for the Gunners, lifting the FA Cup three times and winning the Premier League twice. He was a member of the "Invincibles" team which went through the 2003-04 Premier League season unbeaten.

He left the club in acrimonious circumstances in 2006 and was fined £100,000 ($121,500) — later reduced to £75,000 on appeal — for his part in an illegal approach from Chelsea in 2005, the club he would join the following year.

Cole won the FA Cup in his first season at Stamford Bridge and four times in total and also won the Premier League in 2010 and the Champions League in 2012, scoring in the penalty shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich.

After leaving Chelsea in 2014, Cole had spells with Roma and LA Galaxy before ending his playing career under former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard at Derby in England's second tier.