LONDON (Reuters) – Tributes were paid to Emiliano Sala before Cardiff City’s Premier League clash at Arsenal on an emotional night at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
Cardiff were playing for the first time since the light aircraft carrying Sala to join his new team mates disappeared over the English Channel last Monday.
Sol Bamba, Cardiff’s captain, carried daffodils onto the pitch while Arsenal skipper Mesut Ozil also laid a floral tribute to the 28-year-old who is presumed dead.
“We never saw you play, we never saw you score, but Emiliano, our beautiful Bluebird, we will love you forever more,” one banner held by Cardiff fans read.
Arsenal won the match 2-1.
Sala’s family had requested that black arm bands were not worn by the players, but Cardiff fans held up yellow placards in the away end, the club colour of Nantes, from whom Sala joined Cardiff during the transfer window.
Sala’s name was also listed in the Cardiff squad in the matchday programme, with a daffodil symbol rather than a squad number next to his name.
The daffodil is a symbol of Welsh identity.
An image of Sala was shown on the video screens around the ground.
“What’s gone on this week is unprecedented, really. I can’t explain really how it’s been,” Cardiff manager Neil Warnock told reporters.
“You’ve not really wanted to get out of bed because everything was really miserable. Nobody could do anything about it. It’s been really difficult.
“I know we’ve lost a game of football but there are more important things.”
Tributes were also made to Sala at other matches on Tuesday.
Sala, Cardiff’s record signing but who had yet to play for the Welsh club, was flying to Britain when the single-engined plane he was in vanished.
No trace of the plane, being flown by pilot David Ibbotson, has been found and an official search has been called off.
Sala’s family have continued a private search and have raised almost $420,000 on a GoFundMe page.
($1 = 0.8747 euros)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar/Greg Stutchbury)