Wales

Emiliano Sala: Tributes to striker at Arsenal v Cardiff game

Emirates Stadium Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Players from Arsenal and Cardiff observed a minute's silence to honour Emiliano Sala

On the night he should have made his Cardiff City debut, players, staff and fans have paid an emotional tribute to missing striker Emiliano Sala.

The 28-year-old is feared dead after the plane he was on vanished eight days ago.

Floral tributes were laid at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium - where Cardiff played their first game since Sala's disappearance.

He was also named in the matchday programme squad list.

A picture of a daffodil was placed next to where the former FC Nantes striker's name would have been, in a gesture described as "an incredibly touching one" by fans.

"It is a yellow flower, the flower of Wales and has significance to Nantes," said Cardiff chief executive Ken Choo.

The Press Association's football correspondent Phil Blanche said the evening was a poignant one for players, staff and fans of the Welsh club.

He said: "Tonight would have been Sala's debut - he would have had a week's training and I would have expected he would have started the game.

"It's an emotional night for Cardiff City."

Despite Cardiff, losing the game 2-1, boss Neil Warnock said it was his side's best performance of the season. He added: "We talked about Emiliano before the game and I thought it was appropriate that we gave a good account of ourselves against a good side."

Tributes were also paid at the evening's other Premier League matches - with silences taking place at the home grounds of Newcastle United, Wolves and Manchester United.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Captains Mesut Ozil (left) of Arsenal and and Cardiff City's Sol Bamba (right) laid bunches of daffodils before the game kicked off
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans held aloft yellow placards, Nantes scarves as well as displayed flags honouring Sala

Kate Morgan, BBC Wales sport news correspondent

It was a rainy, cold and surreal night at an emotional Emirates Stadium.

Cardiff fans who wouldn't normally travel to away games joined those who've been coming for decades. But tonight no-one seemed to care about the result.

The evening belonged to one man and one man only: record signing Emilano Sala, whose disappearance has touched football fans across the globe.

In and amongst the usual blue of the Cardiff City flags were Argentine flags draped over the shoulders of Bluebirds fans.

He was praised in the match day programme notes by Arsenal boss Unai Emery

And fans held aloft yellow signs - a reference to the Argentinean's former club FC Nantes.

He may not have been on the pitch, but Sala was very much in everyone's minds and in their hearts.

Sala signed for the Bluebirds from Nantes on 19 January and was flying back to Wales from France when the plane disappeared from radar last Monday evening.

At 19:15 GMT, pilot David Ibbotson made a request to descend before losing contact with Jersey air traffic control.

An official search for Sala and Mr Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, was called off last week, with coastguards saying the chance of finding them alive was "extremely remote".

But after a plea from the footballer's sister, more than £290,000 was raised for a private search to continue.

High-profile donors to the GoFundMe page include France and PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, former West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet and Leicester City winger Demarai Gray.

Image copyright Kevin Leonard
Image caption Cardiff fans travelling to London will be showing their support for Sala and his family by wearing daffodils
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cardiff fans at the Emirates displayed flags honouring Sala
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tributes have also been left outside the Cardiff City Stadium

Family spokesman David Mearns said Sala's family had been touched by the messages of support.

He added: "He's a really friendly person that people loved - from both clubs and any other clubs, and that's where you see the breadth of the football community coming together in an extraordinarily short period of time to raise this type of money."

Speaking a press conference on Monday, Cardiff manager Warnock said he understood Sala's family's stance on keeping the search going.

"If it was my kid I'd want everybody looking forever," he added.

"It's by far the most difficult week in my career. Even now I can't get my head round the situation."

Image caption Emiliano Sala was on board a plane bound for Cardiff from Nantes when it disappeared from radar

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