Emiliano Sala: Cardiff footballer’s funeral takes place
Mourners have been paying their final respects to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala in his native Argentina.
The 28-year-old died when the plane he was in with pilot David Ibbotson crashed in the English Channel en route from Nantes to Cardiff on 21 January.
A wake was held at the club Sala played for as a youth in his hometown of Progreso before the funeral started later on Saturday.
Among those who attended was Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock.
“I would like to find a responsible person…someone who says to me: ‘this happened’; but, well, it seems this was just an accident,” said Sala’s aunt Mirta Taffarel.
Sala was killed when a single-engine light aircraft, flown by pilot Mr Ibbotson, crashed near Alderney just two days after he became Cardiff City’s record transfer.
His body, which was recovered from the wreckage following a privately-funded search last week, was repatriated to Argentina on Friday.
It was then driven from Buenos Aires to the Sante Fe province, where Sala grew up.
Outside the wake, fans draped a banner reading ‘Emi, nunca caminaras solo’ or ‘Emi, You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
“It’s as if he was a member of my family,” said a sobbing Lucia Torres, who lives nearby.
“It’s something I can’t understand nor accept because it hurts so much. The town has been in darkness since 21 January.”
“He represented a lot for us,” said Daniel Ribero, president of Sala’s boyhood club San Martin de Progreso.
“We’re a small village and Emi was a celebrity, the only player to turn professional.”
Ahead of the service, the club posted a message on social media saying: “We are waiting for you … like the first day you left but this time to stay with us forever. Eternally in our hearts.”
The wake got under way at the sports hall in San Martin de Progreso at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and the funeral started at 14:00 (17:00 GMT).
As well as Cardiff’s delegation of Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo, Sala’s former club FC Nantes has been represented by defender Nicolas Pallois and its general secretary.
Warnock said: “He’s my player. He signed for me I think he was going to be very instrumental in what we were looking to do and I feel it’s the only good thing you can do.
“Family puts it in perspective. Family is so important, everything here today has shown how important it is…it seems like the whole village has got together.”
Mr Choo added: “We feel very sad and the whole club feels very sad.”
“Today I think it’s good for the family to have some closure.”
Sala’s mother Mercedes and sister Romina, who travelled to Europe after his disappearance, have returned to Progreso.
His father Horacio also attended the funeral.
Meanwhile, a campaign to raise funds to find the body of Mr Ibbotson has reached £240,000.
The family of the 59-year-old, who is feared dead, are hoping to raise £300,000. – bbc.com