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.


Saudi Women’s Football League launched

Updated 24 February 2020

Saudi Women’s Football League launched

  • The first season of the WFL, a nationwide initiative, will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam
  • League inaugurated by president of Saudi Sports for All Federation

RIYADH/DUBAI: Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh. 

It is the latest initiative led by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal to promote grassroots sports activities for budding female and male athletes across Saudi Arabia.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal (L) (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community-level football for women,” Prince Khaled told Arab News.

“This community league is the first activation of many different community-level sports for women, and it will serve as a great model in terms of league infrastructure and inclusion metrics, contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program.”

Fully funded by the SFA, the WFL is a nationwide community-level league for women aged 17 and above.

In its first season, it will take place in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with more cities potentially joining in due course. 

With a prize of SR500,000 ($133,285) at stake, the WFL will consist of preliminary rounds taking place across the three cities to establish regional champions.

The winners progress to a knockout competition, the WFL Champions Cup, to determine the national champion, with the date of the final to be announced later in the season. 

Prince Khaled thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, for their “boundless support.”

 

 

The WFL “is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability,” said Prince Khaled. 

Women’s football is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup raised its profile to unprecedented levels, inspiring greater participation across the globe.

Inspiration for female footballers at the grassroots level has come from closer to home, Prince Khaled said.

“I think a big inspiration for young Saudi women to get involved in community-level football is the Saudi Greens Team,” he said, referring to the all-female team established by the SFA.

“The Saudi Greens placed second in the Global Goals World Cup last year, and this was a huge moment for young female athletes in the Kingdom.”

Prince Khaled sees the WFL as a pivotal initiative of the SFA and a major driver behind the realization of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which strives for a healthier and more active society.

SFA Managing Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini believes that the WFL will significantly improve the visibility of women in sports and prioritize their fitness, health and wellness.

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” she said.

“The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”

She said this is a qualitative shift in women’s sports in the Kingdom. Spearheaded by Sara Al-Jawini, the SFA’s director of sports development, the federation “studied all aspects of the new league, conducting continuous workshops to ensure the wider WFL infrastructure and lasting impact metrics,” Al-Husseini added. 

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

The SFA has ensured that the football pitches are ready for the start of the WFL in March, with all-female organizational and technical teams in place to manage the various committees working toward delivering the league.

The WFL infrastructure teams will address and complete administrative requirements, refereeing, and technical and medical issues. 

Coaching and refereeing courses are planned to further develop the country’s infrastructure for women in sports.

The SFA’s investment in the WFL includes both women’s coaching and women’s refereeing training to fully flesh out the program’s potential and maintenance. 

At a later stage, the SFA and WFL will be communicating details on additional leagues and football events, as well as festivals targeting girls aged 16 and below.

These competitions, under the banner “Beyond Football,” will focus on building a strong base for future participation at the community level, beginning with girls aged 5.