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.


Riyadh route revealed for inaugural Saudi Tour cycling event

Updated 24 January 2020

Riyadh route revealed for inaugural Saudi Tour cycling event

  • The race, will begin at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee headquarters on Feb. 4 and end on Feb. 8 at Al-Masmak Fort

RIYADH: The Saudi Cycling Federation on Thursday revealed the full route for next month’s inaugural Saudi Tour event in Riyadh.

The 755 kilometer race, which is split into five daily stages, will begin at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee headquarters on Feb. 4 and end on Feb. 8 at Al-Masmak Fort. Along the way, the competitors will pass many Riyadh landmarks, including Sadus Castle, Wadi Namar Park and Al-Bujairi historical district.

Eighteen teams from 13 countries will compete, and the riders include Mark Cavendish from the UK, Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni and Dutch cyclist Niki Terpstra.

Subah Al-Kraidees, chairman of the Saudi Cycling Federation, said he is delighted that the Kingdom is hosting a major Union Cycliste Internationale cycling event for the first time.

“I am so proud that the Saudi Cycling Federation is able to see one of its dreams realized with this event, and to have Saudi Arabia recognized as an important station in the international biking scene,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Saudi athletes to rub shoulders with international bikers, and to see what they have achieved and learn from their experiences.”

The Saudi Tour will be broadcast worldwide by 25 TV networks, six of whom will also live stream the event.

Three other events will take place on the sidelines of the main race: a public bike ride from noon to 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 6, a junior race on the same day from 1 p.m. to 2.40 p.m., and a women’s ride from 12.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. on Feb. 8.

You can find more details of the event and broadcast schedules, and track the teams and their race times, at www.thesauditour.com.