Nantes fans say fi­nal good­bye to Sala on day of mourn­ing

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer

PARIS >> On a day of mourn­ing for Emil­iano Sala, Nantes play­ers walked onto the field dressed all in black with Sala’s name on their backs as the crowd chanted for him over and over again.

“La la la la la la la la, Em-il-ia-no,” fans sang, be­fore break­ing out in a minute’s ap­plause. This was ob­served at all sta­di­ums in the top two di­vi­sions in France this week­end in mem­ory of the Ar­gen­tine striker who was killed in a plane crash at the age of 28.

Play­ers from both sides, some with their heads down in pen­sive thought, stood in a cir­cle and ap­plauded at the Stade de la Beau­joire be­fore Sun­day’s game.

Then the chant­ing re­turned, with a dif­fer­ent re­frain.

“Emil­iano Sala, Emil­iano, Emil­iano, Emil­iano Sa-la,” the 37,000- strong crowd sang with same un­re­lent­ing in­ten­sity Sala showed through­out his ca­reer with Nantes, Caen and Bordeaux — the club he joined nine years ago af­ter leav­ing Ar­gentina to forge a ca­reer in France.

Nimes play­ers wore black arm­bands on their red jer- seys.

The ref­eree stopped the game af­ter nine min­utes — nine be­ing the jer­sey num­ber worn by Sala — and the fans chanted his name again as they ap­plauded. Nantes has now re­tired the No. 9 as a trib­ute to Sala.

Be­fore the game, a gi­ant ban­ner with Sala’s face on it was draped over the cen­ter cir­cle, while the sta­dium’s big screen showed all the 48 goals he scored in 133 ap­pear­ances for the club.

Sala scored his last goal for Nantes on Dec. 5 in a 3-2 win over Mar­seille, a typ­i­cally pow­er­ful header from the im­pos­ing striker.

He was killed in a plane crash in the English Chan­nel last month and his body was re­cov­ered from the seabed wreck­age this week .

Sala had been fly­ing from Nantes to Cardiff, about to start a new ca­reer in the English Premier League. At 28 years old, he was at the prime age for a soc­cer striker.

Through­out his ca­reer, Sala won re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion wher­ever he played be­cause of his work ethic and un­selfish at­ti­tude on the field .

Those traits won him the ad­mi­ra­tion of Nantes coach Vahid Halil­hodzic, him­self a sim­i­larly hard-work­ing striker with Nantes in the 1980s.

Sala was the ideal team­mate, one who be­came a friend to sev­eral Nantes play­ers.

He scored one goal for Bordeaux and then 19 for Or­leans, 18 for Niort and five for Caen be­fore join­ing Nantes in 2015.

MARK KERTON - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cardiff City play­ers ob­serve a minute of si­lence in trib­ute to Emil­iano Sala ahead of the English Premier League soc­cer match be­tween Southamp­ton and Cardiff City at St Mary’s Sta­dium, Southamp­ton, Eng­land, Satur­day Feb. 9, 2019.

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