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JAnne-Philip Russell opened the door from her hairdresser.
It was early in the evening on January 19, dark and cold and well past closing for Saturday. But Russell, whose shop is just down the street from the restaurant and patchwork, and the modest church in the center of Carquefou, a French village in the suburbs of Nantes, stayed late to receive a friend. Emiliano Salla got inside.
Hall summoned Russell that morning. A forward for FC Nantes, a club near the bottom of the table in Ligue 1, Hall just was in the hairstyle two weeks earlier; Normally, it waited three weeks between reductions.
This was different. After more than three seasons for Nantes, Sala, the 28-year-old Argentine, was sold to Cardiff City from the English Premier League, which is a big deal for both clubs. Hall signed his new contract on Friday. He was due to report to his new team on Monday night. These days in the middle, then, were for farewell goodbye.
Thus, Hall made circles. He loved Carquefou, loved the quiet and quaintness and charm. He loved the farm behind his house, where his rescue dog, Nala, ran out of a leash, skipping between ducks and chickens and cows, including the piece Prun and Pomponet. He loved the small vineyard, right across the road, where those Muslim wine and he could go with Nola among the grapes. He loved the streams that swam from the River Erdre, where his friends could fish for a pike.
He loved people. He stopped seeing Dominique and Martial, the butchers in Mason Garnier, where he bought Milano's veal twice a week and would sign autographs of cards that other clients left on the counter. In the bakery he saw Blondin, who knew how to have fuels, or apple pie, ready for him to buy one day before each match. He went to tobacco, where he bought his cigarettes and went to Snoopy Koif, where Alexia, who told Nala, bathed them.
"I'm on a plane that looks like it's falling apart."
– Emiliano Salla, a friend of the WhatsApp message shortly before his missing plane
Hall finished in the salon. He and Russell became close over the years – Russell invited Salla to join his family at Disneyland two Christmas days – and Rousse felt that Sala felt inconsistent with his transfer. Hall was not entirely sure he wanted to leave France, but Nant reportedly sold it for £ 15m (about $ 19.7m), and football is a business, Sala said. Even if Cardiff City is not one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League, it was an opportunity to increase an hour, and Sala mentioned that one of his first games would be against Arsenal.
He told Russell to come and visit Wales.
"Worst case, I'll come and I'll cut my hair and we can watch some games," said Russell, and they laughed.
After Russell finished with Sala's standard cone bag, Salla got to pay and Russell told him to take away the wallet. Hall then took a Nantes jersey from the bag and offered it as a gift. "I know it's not your favorite," he said – Russell was actually the roots for Marseille, not for Nantes – but Russell held him. They hugged and parted with wet eyes.
The next day, Hall packed his home, leaving a pile of furniture to be moved to Cardiff, and another to be dumped. On Monday, he visited the training ground in Nantes, a city on the Loire River in western France, about 200 miles from Paris. He wanted to make another last picture with his teammates – he announced on Instagram with the inscription "La ultima ciao, "or" the last goodbye "- and he headed for the airport.
At 7 o'clock, he boarded a small private plane with English pilot David Ibbotsson. At 7:15 am, with a single engine, Piper PA-46 Malibu flew to Cardiff. While in flight, Sala sent an audio message to a group conversation involving other Nantes players, in which he relatively calmly said he was tired of everything he did in Nantes and was referred to Cardiff for training with his new team. He also said that, in the same exhaustive tone, he felt that the plane "seemed to crumble."
Approximately around 8:30 am, air traffic control in Jersey, one of the small Canal Islands between France and mainland Britain, received a request from the plane's landing. Moments later, the plane disappeared from the radar of 2,300 meters.
Search started almost immediately. John Fitzgerald, who owns the studio for photography, also runs the volunteers who make up the Guernsey Air Force, one of the larger Canal Islands, just happened in the hangar when a Coast Guard call came. Fitzgerald and other volunteers always train at night on Monday, and they just ended up with a series of stress management exercises.
Within 30 minutes, they were in the air, and with nightgowns in place, they were redirected on the plane's way to the point that left the radar. The other planes joined the search, and rescue boats emerged, despite the high winds and uncertain seas. Until 2 am, under heavy clouds and darkened moon, everyone searched the gloomy waters, searching for signs on the plane or raft for life or something, indeed.
They found nothing.
There is a saying in French, mouiller le maillot, which translates literally as a "wet jersey", but is commonly used to describe a player who leans: a fighter, a warrior, a tireless worker who never stops. It's a great commendation, and that's what Nantes fans have always said about Hall.
Perhaps this is why, as it was transmitted to Nantes on Monday and Tuesday morning, there was originally faith – blind, perhaps, but still, faith – that Salah would be found. The fans headed for a practice facility in Nantes to leave flowers and cards and pictures and jerseys at the gates, to light candles and write letters to the Hall. Poster with a large portrait on the face of the Hall and the words "GARDONS ESPOIR"(" keep hope ") stretched after fencing.
It was easy to understand. The connection of the Hall with Nantes and France was special. He was born in Kaloulu, Argentina, but left home for 15 years to join the academy for the development of young players in a neighboring Argentine province. The Academy had connections with Bordeaux, and Sala traveled to Europe over the next four years to play with various clubs before signing his first professional contract with Bordeaux in 2010. He was 19 years old.
In the beginning, it seemed that he could not break out like a star, he struggled to set himself up with the first team and to be loaned out to smaller clubs like Caen. It was not until July 2015, when Nantes bought him from Bordeaux, and he ended the season as the club's main scorer, who felt that he had arrived. He scored 42 times for Nantes over the next three and a half seasons.
Sala's journey, as well as his habit of fearlessly trying to score a goal with his head, made him beloved by Nantes fans who often sang his name at the stadium. For those who saw it through the city, its steel on the ground turned into a quiet passion. Before the matches, he will stand in St. Pierre's Church to pray, kneeling down to the statue of the Virgin Mary. In September, when his mother was visiting, they prayed together, and the priest, Guillaume Le Flaah, was struck by the quiet passion of the Hall. He put his hand on Sala's shoulder. "Emiliano, God can bless you and guide you," he said. Hall nodded.
Even this autumn, as speculation increased that a larger club would try to buy it (Everton was among other clubs that speculated they had an interest), Sala kept up his routines. Matt Moyanga, an American defender who played for Nantes in the first half of this season, will sit down to the Stationary Bike Hall that the players drove to warm up before each training session.
From the very beginning, Hall and Mijaza practiced their tongues to each other – Miazga for learning in French, a Hall for learning English – and inevitably ended in accordance with gambling. When media reports of Cardiff City's interest in the Hall intensified, Mijaza intensified his untamed criticism of linguistics Hall, saying: "You better start learning! You will need them!"
By mid-January, he did it. Sala made her last appearance for Nantes on January 16 and traveled to Cardiff to have a physical January 18.
Surprising through his physical condition, Hall stopped with Cardiff training fields and visited with his teammates. He participated in his manager, Neil Warnock, who came to France several times to watch the game Hall during the recruitment period.
Warnock, a 70-year-old veteran trainer, taken to Salah, has already begged to forgive him to fight his name. Instead of "Emiliano," Varnock said, he hopes it will be okay to call Hall "Emil" because, he explained, "I get all the names wrong and it's too long for me." Hall agreed.
That Friday, Warnock lightened when he saw Sala, laughed in the incredible outfit of his new player. "You will fit normally here," Varnock said.
"I will achieve my goals," Sala told him. Warnock smiled. "I know I will."
Warnock then offered Sala a chance to join the team, because the next day he went to Newcastle for a league match. He certainly would not play, but it would be an opportunity to experience the team, see tactics. Sala said she appreciated the offer but wanted to make sure she had a chance to connect things at home.
It was supposed to finish packing. He was supposed to make his rounds in Carquefou. He was supposed to consider things with his owner, the owner of the farm, Michel Aurai, who rented the house and sometimes walked around him with him, talking about the animals. It is also necessary to raise Nala. Hall left his Labrador with his teammate Nicholas Palois while he was away, but now he was supposed to take her to the kennel before starting the process to lead to Wales.
On Saturday, then, Warnock and Cardiff City played in northwest England. Hall went south. The plan was to see him for training Tuesday morning.
Until Wednesday, when Hall is sister, Romina, arrived in Cardiff from Argentina, the two questions that were most pressing were the same ones who wondered: what did her brother do on that plane? And how was it possible, after almost two days of a trace, to find no trace of anyone, or anything?
No question had a clear answer. Romina learned that Cardiff City was not involved in the Sala reservation; the club offered to buy a commercial flight from Paris – which would include a connection – but Hall chose to make other arrangements.
At the heart of these plans was high profile soccer agent Willie Mackey, who does not represent Sala but has a son, Mark, who helped represent Nantes in a transfer deal with Cardiff City and another, Jack, who plays for Cardiff.
With customers scattered across Europe, Willie McCready often engages private planes and pilots to move clients or team managers from place to place. So, when Sala was to reach from a small town (Cardiff) to another (Nantes) and return to a short period of time, it was not unusual for him to get involved.
In a series of text messages that Willey McKay announced after the plane's disappearance, Jack McKay told Salt that his father had arranged a private jet for him if he wanted to use it. Hall was grateful and pleased when McCay told him that he would not cost Hall anyway, "if you help me score goals". Hall replied: "Hahaha with pleasure."
The two then set the time for the first flight from Cardiff to Nantes on Saturday and returning Monday night. It seemed that Sala knew that the plane would be small, as he sent McKay a picture of his luggage to ask if it would fit.
McCabe told the BBC he had set up flights through David Henderson, a pilot veteran who knew who was transporting his players "across Europe countless occasions." It was not clear how Ibbotson, the pilot who flew the flight, was out of work, although Cardiff City's Vornock manager said he had fled Ibbotson in the past and recalled him as a "wonderful" pilot. Henderson did not comment publicly on the incident.
Ibbotson, a semi-commercial pilot, also worked as a gas engineer and often flying with parachute flights. He logged on to Facebook from Nantes airport on Saturday, joked with friends in comments that he was "a bit rusty" with the controls on the plane, and there were issues raised in the aftermath of the flight safety of a single-engine plane over English channel in unpredictable weather overnight.
Fitzgerald, the leader of the rescue team of Guernsey, said one of the basic challenges is that if something goes wrong with the plane, "pulling" or landing a small jet on water, is incredibly difficult without daylight. "The problem with the sea is that you do not get a huge visual perception of the heights," he said. "It can be 500 meters or 1,000 meters and it looks the same."
The review itself was a different problem. Initially, Fitzgerald and his team were looking for people on the water at their request, hoping to see flashing lights on cereal jackets or to receive a reading from a candlestick on the raft of life.
While the lessons lasted and that opportunity became more distant, they still hoped to see something – part of the plane, oil oil that climbed to the surface – to show if the plane hit the water. Never no. And after more searches across Tuesday and Wednesday, also failed, the port master canceled the official search of the plane Thursday, one day after the arrival of Romina.
Sala's sister immediately issued a crying plea for the pursuit to continue. "Down in my heart, I know that Emiliano, who is a fighter, is still alive," she said, and many of the worlds of football (including stars such as Lionel Messi and Kilian Mbape) took the call, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars GoFundMe payment page for private search.
Boat Ship Expert, David Meyers, was brought in and he traveled to Guernsey with the Sal's family over the weekend to pursue the quest. Three days later, the seats believed to be from the plane were discovered on a French beach but continued to have no signs of Sala, Ibbotson or the body itself on the plane itself.
After such time, according to Mears, the next step will be to bring other equipment to improve search in a new phase. At this point, he said, the search must change its focus underwater.
It was raining tonight on Tuesday in London. Eight days after Sala's disappearance, he landed at the Emirates stadium for what would be his first game with Cardiff City, the one he excitedly spoke to Russell in the salon. The players were soaked during their warm windows, and then again, when they went wrong. It does not matter. Remember? Mouiller le maillot. In any case, the Sala's jersey should expire.
There was respect. The managers and team staff wore yellow ribbons on the ribs, with the voice of the yellow color as the primary color of Nantes. The name of the Hall was included in the Narcissus program where its number went. Fans of Cardiff City held yellow posters before the match and the captain of each team wore bouquets of daisies and tulips to the middle of the pitch, setting them to the center.
I felt strange. The stadium's announcer did not want to use words like "memory" or "in memory" when speaking about Hall, sensitive to the idea that the Sala family is pushing her with the search. But the look was brutal: Sala returned to Nantes to see his teammates once again and his friends once and his city again, stopping at all his regular places for a little closure. Now, a week later, his family can only pray that he will find some.
Sport always moves faster. Sala's sister and his mother are still in Guernsey, but on Wednesday, Nant played his first game after Sala disappeared, and Warnock, who said he was so broken over the past week that he was talking to the therapist and felt that he was moving away from the coach also said he felt obliged to be on Tuesday. He did not have a choice, he said, except to help his players and fans of his team start further.
So, the flowers were laid. The players connected the weapons. И навивачите стоеја, некои држеа во Аргентина, или на Нант, некои стигнуваа жолти шамии или знамиња. Тоа требаше да биде различно за оние кои го направија патувањето од Кардиф. Тоа требаше да биде прослава. Но, наместо да гледаат светла нова потпишувањето за неговиот тим, сите што можеа да направат е да ја делат минута размислување за него.
Играчите се наведнаа со главите. Навивачите ги кренаа рацете. Дождот никогаш не испадна. Беше момент да се разгледа кој е Емилијано Сала. Беше моментот да се замисли што можеше да биде.
Белорускиот новинар Бенојт Морен даде свој придонес за овој извештај.
Борден е постар писател за ESPN. Претходно работел за "Њујорк тајмс" како странски дописник со седиште во Париз.