Emiliano Sala was born in the town of Cululú, Santa Fe Province, Argentina, to Horacio Sala and Mercedes Taffarel. His father worked as a truck driver; the family later moved to Progreso. He held an Italian passport. He had a brother, Dario, and a sister, Romina. He was a fan of Independiente and, while growing up, he studied footage of his favourite footballer, Gabriel Batistuta. On January 19th 2019 Sala joined Cardiff City. In the same morning, after completing his medical at Cardiff, Emiliano returned to Nantes on a plane arranged by football agent Mark McKay. His intention was to return to Cardiff on 21 January in order to attend his first training session with his new club the following morning. Sala had been invited to attend Cardiff’s match against Newcastle United by manager Neil Warnock, but he returned to France to say goodbye to his Nantes teammates and collect personal belongings. On 21 January the Piper Malibu aircraft, which was flying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff, disappeared off Alderney. The same aircraft and pilot had flown Sala to Nantes two days earlier. On 23 January, Channel Islands Air Search reported that there was “no hope” of finding any survivors in the water. An audio message, allegedly sent from the plane by Sala to his friends via WhatsApp, was released by Argentine media outlet Olé. Guernsey Police initially searched for three days over 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) across the English Channel. At 15:15 GMT on 24 January 2019, after a “very thorough and extensive search” including eighty hours of combined searching undertaken by three planes, five helicopters and two lifeboats, the police announced that they had called off the search for the aircraft or any survivors. The decision led to calls worldwide for the search to continue, including numerous other footballers, among them fellow Argentine players Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero and former player Diego Maradona. Some top players and fans have handed in donations to try and find the missing striker. Efforts to give closure to Emiliano Sala’s story, for better or for worse, are being fueled by the family and those who have been touched by the story. After the decision by Guernsey police to stop searching for any trace of the aircraft, the player or the pilot, it was up to the player’s relatives to carry on with the search, and support has come from around the world to keep up with these proceedings. Surprisingly, the world of football has stepped up to try and help. A GoFundMe website was created to help raise over £300,000 to help the family in their attemps to find Sala.Donations poured in from about 1,700 fans and footballers across Europe and the page hit its £150,000 target in less than 24 hours. A new goal has been extended to £500,000 after footballers including Manchester City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and PSG’s France international Adrien Rabiot donated towards the cause. The list of names that have chipped in also includes Geoffrey Kondogbia, Corentin Tolisso, Maxime Gonalons, Gonzalo Higuain, Ngolo Kante and Laurent Koscielny. FIFPro has also made a donation, according to the website.The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, stated his intention to request the British and French governments to resume the search. An online petition also attracted over 65,000 signatures and Sala’s family later announced their decision to fund a private search. Over £280,000 was raised for this search on GoFundMe started by Sports Cover, a sports agency that represented Sala. The funds enabled the private search to commence on 26 January, with the launch of two boats, led by marine scientist David Mearns. On 28 January, plans were announced for an underwater search to begin “within a week”, dependent on weather conditions, using an unmanned remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to search an area of seabed north of Hurd’s Deep. On 29 January, Cardiff City included Sala on the team sheet for their game against Arsenal, with a daffodil next to his name in place of a squad number. On 30 January, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) reported that they had found two seat cushions washed up on a French beach, which were believed to be from the missing aircraft. On 3 February, another underwater search for the aircraft began, using the AAIB’s Geo Ocean III vessel and a privately-funded vessel, which were conducting sonar surveys of the seabed. The planned search, lasting three days, would cover an area of 4 square nautical miles (14 km2; 5.3 sq mi), about 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi) north of Guernsey. At approximately 21:11 GMT, six hours after the new search began, wreckage from the aircraft was found at a depth of 63 metres (207 ft). On 4 February, investigators stated that there was one body visible inside the wreckage. On 7 February, the body was recovered from the wreckage and taken to the Isle of Portland to be passed to the Dorset coroner. Later that day, Dorset Police identified the body as Sala’s by means of fingerprint evidence.
Nantes decided to retire his former number 9 jersey. On February 10th, a day of mourning for Emiliano Sala, Nantes players walked into the field dressed all in black with Sala’s name on their backs as the crowd chanted for him over and over again. ‘La la la la la la la la, Em-il-ia-no,’ fans sang, before breaking out in a minute’s applause. This was observed at all stadiums in the top two divisions in France. On 11 February the results of a post mortem reported that Sala had died of “head and trunk injuries”. Sala’s funeral was held in his hometown of Progreso on 16 February 2019. On 25 February 2019, a Special Bulletin was issued by the AAIB. On 28 February ex-football agent Willie McKay, who had arranged the flight, said that Sala had been “abandoned” by Cardiff City and was left to arrange his own travel. McKay’s son Mark was Nantes’ acting agent in the deal for Sala. The football club said they “strongly reject” the claim they neglected to provide Sala with travel arrangements.