Nantes stopped in 9th minute to pay tribute to Sala

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The hopes of finding Argentine striker Emiliano Sala could be fading by every minute but the sympathy for the whole incident in the hearts of the football fans is only growing.

As Sala’s former club FC Nantes, from which he was to secure a move to Cardiff City in the Premier League, was playing Saint Etienne in the Ligue 1, the referee stopped play in the 9th minute to let the entire stadium pay tribute to the missing striker.

Sala had left the French club for England in a private Piper Malibu aircraft with pilot David Ibbotson when the plane went off the radar over the English Channel on January 21. The player had already signed for the relegation-threatened EPL strugglers and was back in Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates and colleagues at the club.

In the first match for Nantes since Sala’s disappearance on January 21, the referee also halted play after nine minutes so the crowd could applaud him and chant his name over and over again.

“It was a very special night, we played more for him than for us”, Nantes defender Diego Carlos said after the 1-1 draw. “We gave everything for him”, he added.

An emotional moment 

Fans broke out into long and sustained chants of “Emiliano Sala, Emiliano Sala, Emiliano, Emiliano, Emiliano Sala” around the stadium when the referee paused the match for more than one minute.

The emotion of the occasion was obvious. His former teammates and their opponents joined in with the supporters’ applause, while the crowd could also be heard singing Sala’s name. Vahid Halilhodžić, Nantes’ manager, also appeared to be in tears.

Meanwhile, Cardiff manager Neil Warnock admitted that he considered retirement after going through the ordeal of seeing his new signing disappear en route to the club.

“You think 24 hours a day about whether to carry on”, he said in a media conference. “It’s impossible to sleep. I’ve been in football management for 40 years, and it’s been the most difficult week in my career by an absolute mile.