Nantes fans showed their devotion to missing Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, chanting his name non-stop during an emotional home game against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
In the first match for Nantes since Sala’s disappearance on Jan. 21, the referee also halted play after nine minutes so the crowd could applaud him and chant his name over and over again.
“It was a very special night, we played more for him than for us,” Nantes defender Diego Carlos said after the 1-1 draw. “We gave everything for him.”
Fans broke out into long and sustained chants of “Emiliano Sala, Emiliano Sala, Emiliano, Emiliano, Emiliano Sala” around the stadium when the referee paused the match for more than one minute.
The former Nantes striker, who wore the No. 9 shirt, has been missing since a plane transporting him to the Welsh city of Cardiff went off the radar. Sala had just been signed by Premier League club Cardiff for a club-record fee.
The fans repeated his name, loud and unrelenting, after the break. This time it was a slower, more poignant refrain of “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Em-il-ia-no Sa-la” as Nantes fans showed they will never forget him.
Nor will the players.
The search for Sala and the pilot was called off after a three-day air-and-sea operation near the Channel Islands failed to locate the aircraft, leading to criticism — including from Halilhodzic — and prompting Sala’s family to raise money for a private search.
Now, British authorities say French counterparts found parts of two seat cushions on a beach near Surtainville in northwest France and a vessel has been commissioned to conduct a search of the seabed starting this weekend.
In Wednesday’s other match, South Africa striker Lebo Mothiba scored twice as Strasbourg beat Bordeaux 3-2 at home to reach the League Cup final.
Strasbourg will play Guingamp on March 30.