A poster of Sala in front of the Jonelière. - LOIC VENANCE / AFP
- A year ago, to the day, Emiliano Sala disappeared in a plane crash.
- 20 Minutes tells how its presence on the plane was confirmed and how it affected FC Nantes
"Huge concern. A small passenger plane, which took off from Nantes-Atlantique airport on Monday evening, disappeared over the English Channel, with Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala and the pilot of the plane on board. by these few lines, published on Tuesday January 22 at 9:27 am, that 20 Minutes reveals the information that will upset the news for several days, from the frantic search for the device until the discovery of the body of the attacker Argentine, early February.
"Was he in Nantes?" You're kidding "
We have been trying to confirm information for two hours which was initially only a bad feeling. Our morning press review, carried out earlier than usual, had blocked on two lines of an article from France Bleu Loire Océan evoking the disappearance of a small plane connecting Nantes to the Welsh capital. Like us, many supporters of FC Nantes immediately made the connection with the presence of Emiliano Sala in town. The day before, the new Cardiff player published a photo with his former partners taken at Jonelière, accompanied by a few words in Spanish: "La ultima (coeur) ciao". We don't know yet, but the legend is terribly premonitory.
La ultima ❤️ ciao @FCNantes 👋🏻💛💚 pic.twitter.com/SV1dNHbYYH- Emiliano Sala (@ EmilianoSala1) January 21, 2019
"Impossible that he got into such a small cuckoo clock," reassures himself as he can be a fan on the social network. The coincidence remains disturbing, however, you have to be clear about it. At 8 a.m., WhatsApp messages to Meïssa Ndiaye, the player's agent, and to Franck Kita, deputy managing director of the FCN with an attached tweet from a Briton also troubled by the concomitance between this disappearance and Sala's presence at Nantes the day before. A few minutes later, response from Franck Kita who does not seem to understand the meaning of our remarks. There follows a discussion on something quite different, then a reminder on this news item by reminding him (what he did not know) that "Sala was at Jonelière on Monday" and that the worst is possible. Franck Kita falls from the cupboard and launches “Are you kidding? Before half an hour of radio silence.
At 9:04 am, text message from Franck Kita: “David, I just had Meïssa [agent]. Emiliano is well on the plane. We're trying to hear from her. My father [Waldemar Kita, president of the FCN] is crying. »9:08 am A source at the airport confirms the unimaginable: Emiliano Sala boarded the missing plane.
Vahid Halilhodzic crying in his office
At La Jonelière, nobody is yet aware among the players, even if a teammate of Sala did not sleep through the night, plagued by anxiety. Nicolas Pallois, a close friend of the Argentinian, still has no news from his partner, who took off from Nantes Monday shortly after 7 p.m. and who was supposed to send him a message when he arrived in Cardiff. When he arrives at the training center, shortly after 8am, the defender asks Anthony Guézennec, the team manager, to inquire at Nantes airport. The checks carried out, Guézennec announces as an aside to Pallois the disappearance of the plane, before informing in the process all the players gathered for breakfast.
The world is falling apart. Vahid Halilhodzic, a coach at the time, cried alone in his office. The professional group is naturally found in the warm-up room which adjoins the changing rooms. The same place where Emiliano Sala had taken a photo for the last time with his ex-partners. An employee keeps the image of the big guy Diego Carlos "devastated, inconsolable".
A deafening silence in the warm-up room
In the middle of the morning, the players are therefore scattered in small groups according to the affinities in the four corners of the room. The silence is deafening, the atmosphere heavy. Many consult their phones for any information. Some want to keep hope and believe in a miracle, others no longer have any illusions. In the administrative building, the bad news also spread quickly. The whole Jonelière is now in a state of amazement. “People were in tears, remembers an employee. The emotion was enormous. "The world has stopped turning here," another briefly summarized at the time.
In his office, Olivier Fenneteau, security manager at the club, tries to get in touch with the British authorities. He wants to be sure that the plane has not been hijacked and has not landed elsewhere. The answer quickly becomes inevitable: the little zinc is nowhere to be found. Like gone. The morning training is canceled and the French Cup match at Sannois-Saint-Gratien, scheduled for the next day, postponed. Some players and staff members will walk to relieve anxiety, or try, others prefer to run. "He was not a person like any other Emi, he was the good guy", we breathe. The one that was unanimous, that had no enemies.
While at lunchtime some players have preferred to go home, others need to stay together. Again and again. Outside, the gendarmes make rounds to ensure that everything goes well on the road next to the training center. Then around 1 p.m., an incessant ballet of players' cars begins. The displacements leave for the most part the Jonelière in tears, without a glance for the fifteen journalists present. Words would have no meaning in this tragic moment, they doubtless believe. Those of Emiliano, however, resonate in the heads of many people he had met the day before. "You realize, in a few days, I will play at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal ..." A dream gone away in the evening of January 21, 2019.
Supporters gather in memory
As the club tries to absorb the shock, a tribute to Sala is taking shape on social networks. The association in Nantes is at the maneuver. “Someone from here said that we had to get together and do something public, remembers Jean-Pierre Clavier, administrator of the association. There was a symbolic place of the city which was essential: the Place Royale. "
We meet many, this evening from 18:30, Place Royale.
Let us express a thought for Emiliano, the other passengers and their relatives by depositing yellow tulips at the foot of the fountain. pic.twitter.com/1FgytEyhWu
The meeting is scheduled for 6.30 p.m. on the town center square, usually reserved for the euphoria of recent victories for the French team, and more distant, from FC Nantes. More than a thousand people answer the call to pay homage to Sala. Often wearing a yellow jersey or scarf, FCN supporters place dozens of bouquets on the ground, a few photos, children's drawings too. Very moved, they keep breaking the heavy silence by repeating the songs to the glory of the 28-year-old Argentinian, who arrived in Nantes in 2015.
It was in fact on Place Royale, that evening, that the song tribute to Sala resounded for the first time. He is now resumed at the 9th minute of each Canary game. So that the people of Nantes never forget.
- Vahid Halilhodzic
- Waldemar Kita
- FC Nantes