Nantes and Saint-Etienne pay tribute to missing Sala

Nantes paid tribute to their missing former player Emiliano Sala with a centre-circle cover showing his face ahead of their rearranged Ligue 1 match against Saint-Etienne.

Guernsey Police on Thursday ceased looking for Sala, who was aboard a Piper Malibu aircraft with pilot David Ibbotson when the plane went missing over the English Channel en route to Cardiff from Nantes on January 21.

Sala completed a transfer to Cardiff City the weekend before and had been back in France bidding farewell to his colleagues at Nantes.

Nine days on, authorities believe the only trace of the aircraft they have found are two seat cushions which were discovered on Monday.

After hearing of Sala's disappearance, Nantes' match against Saint-Etienne was pushed back four days to Wednesday, and Nantes arranged for multiple tributes on an emotional day.

Nantes players took to the pitch with jerseys all bearing Sala's name, as well as the message "animo Emi", before standing in front of a centre-circle cover showing the striker's face.

In the dressing room, the club hung up a shirt also bearing a photo of Sala in the place he would have usually prepared himself.

Visitors Saint-Etienne wore "pray for Sala" jerseys during their warm-up.

Supporters then unfurled a huge tifo depicting Sala just prior to kick-off, starting the match with a rousing rendition of his name.

And the referee stopped play as the clock showed nine minutes, allowing for the players to take part in an emotional minute's applause for the striker who wore No.9.

The tributes came a day after Sala was honoured at the Emirates Stadium, where Cardiff faced Arsenal in their first match since the aircraft went missing.

Cardiff's staff and fans wore daffodils, with the flowers also handed out alongside the official matchday programme, which listed Sala as part of the Welsh side's squad.

Club chief executive Ken Choo explained the use of the daffodil last Friday, highlighting its significance for both Wales and Nantes – the latter of whom wear yellow.

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