Football: Cardiff hope for a 'happy ending' in Emiliano Sala disappearance

From left: Cardiff's Callum Paterson and Lee Peltier will play on today against Arsenal under the cloud of new signing Emiliano Sala's disappearance, even though the team are still recovering from shock.
From left: Cardiff's Callum Paterson and Lee Peltier will play on today against Arsenal under the cloud of new signing Emiliano Sala's disappearance, even though the team are still recovering from shock.PHOTO: REUTERS

Distraught team still pray missing striker Sala can be found as they take on Arsenal

LONDON • Cardiff City players have yet to come to terms with the disappearance of £15 million (S$26.7 million) club-record signing Emiliano Sala, a week after the striker's plane went missing over the English Channel.

Despite the Argentinian never getting the opportunity to make his debut for the Premier League club - he had been pencilled in to start at Arsenal today - the 28-year-old is still considered "part of the team" and defender Sol Bamba told Sky Sports the squad had been "hurt and affected by it (the tragedy)".

He said: "If you're human, you're going to be hurt by it. If you've got a heart, you're going to be affected.

"Even if he wasn't fully part of us, from the minute he signed for us and came to see the boys to say hello, he was part of us.

"We have to hope because we haven't found his body yet, even if the chances are very slim, but we like to think there can be a happy ending, hopefully. It was a tough week... Everyone was in shock."

While conceding the awful circumstances were far from ideal preparations for their trip to the Emirates, with last Tuesday's training session called off, the Ivorian claimed the team "were going to do the best we can".

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock echoed the same thoughts of finding Sala alive, even though a minute's silence will be held before all league games this week in honour of the player and David Ibbotson, the plane's pilot.

The Bluebirds boss admitted at his pre-match press conference that it had been "the most difficult week in my career by a mile" but said "the players need some sort of distraction".

He added: "I can't get my head around the situation, when I look at (Sala's sister) Romina and the family. Everybody is hoping (to find Sala) like the family.

"I've met the lad and know how he was looking forward to this (playing in England). I've never experienced anything like it... It's been a sombre mood. It's just as well we have a game tomorrow."

Arsenal manager Unai Emery will also be wary of the "knock-on (effect) with the (Cardiff) players", even though Warnock will again be forced to field Callum Paterson, a converted right-back, up front.

The Gunners have conceded 32 league goals this term, and their backline will be tested after captain Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos joined Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin - both already ruled out for the season - on the injury list.

Although there were some positive news with Emery confirming Koscielny did not break his jaw and Sokratis was likely to be out for "maybe two or three weeks", Arsenal have only two fit centre-backs at the moment in Shkodran Mustafi and rookie Konstantinos Mavropanos for their "very important match against Cardiff".

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2019, with the headline 'Cardiff hope for a 'happy ending''. Print Edition | Subscribe