Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Players scared to fly after Emiliano Sala disappearance, says Cardiff captain Sol Bamba

Cardiff City supporters display tributes for Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, who went missing on January 21, 2019 after a light aircraft he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel. EPA
Cardiff City supporters display tributes for Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, who went missing on January 21, 2019 after a light aircraft he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel. EPA

The disappearance of new signing Emiliano Sala's flight over the English Channel last week has left the Cardiff City players scared to fly, according to defender Sol Bamba.

Cardiff suffered a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League on Tuesday in what was the Welsh club's first match since a Piper PA-46 Malibu plane carrying Sala disappeared flying from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff on Monday, January 21.

Despite an extensive search operation involving British, French and authorities on the island of Guernsey, rescuers ended their search for Sala last week after saying there was little chance anyone aboard had survived. A privately funded operation is set to search for wreckage on Sunday.

Bamba, Cardiff's captain, carried daffodils onto the pitch at Emirates Stadium while Arsenal skipper Mesut Ozil also laid a floral tribute to the 28-year-old striker 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.

Bamba said the team was badly affected by the "unusual situation".

"We travel by plane and some of the lads have been thinking 'I don't want to go on it anymore'," Bamba told the BBC.

"The gaffer [Neil Warnock] ... and the club have been good in terms of bringing someone in to talk to if we need to. And I think some of the lads do, they need to get it out."

Bamba, who knew Sala personally through his agent, said he discussed the move to Cardiff with the Argentine who was signed from French Ligue 1 club Nantes.

"It is not just me finding it difficult, even though I had a personal connection to him," Bamba added. "I don't feel more sad than the other lads, everyone feels sad, the whole club."

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 for a club record fee of £15 million (Dh71.35m).

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. Tonight in the circumstances, we've only worked on the system, for 24 hours, they couldn't have given me anymore and I'm really proud to be their manager."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette struck second-half goals while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scored a stoppage-time consolation for Cardiff. Winning manager Unai Emery paid tribute to his opposite number as well as Sala.

"Above all our thoughts are with Emiliano Sala, his family, his friends, his club now Cardiff and his ex-club Nantes," Emery said.

"I understand, above all for the coach [Warnock]. He spoke with him [Sala] before he signed with them and it is very difficult to prepare in this situation.

"It was a very emotional match today, they worked hard in their hard moment and we can only say to them our thoughts are with them."

Tributes were also made to Sala at other matches on Tuesday. The striker had yet to play for his new club.

Sala's family have continued a private search and have raised over €350,000 (Dh1.47 million) on a GoFundMe page.

Updated: January 30, 2019 10:52 AM

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