Football in Society #1: The game pays tribute Emiliano Sala
In this new series, we will be covering stories which show our beloved sport beyond the pitch and highlighting the impact it can have in wider society.
Football has the power to bring people together, offer a political or apolitical refuge and provide escapism for millions across the world. Not without its own problems, football culture is something that can provide both joy and despair like few other things.
For our first instalment, we focus on the sombre news that in recent weeks, as the game sadly lost a young footballer who had an exciting career ahead of him, Emiliano Sala.
The former Nantes striker had recently signed a deal that would see him transfer to Premier League side, Cardiff City for £15million – a record fee for the Welsh side. The new chapter should have been a time of excitement and optimism for both the player, club and fans alike.
But sadly, as has become known and mourned worldwide, the plane was taking the Argentine forward to the United Kingdom was lost over the English Channel. On board was not only Sala, but of course, the pilot David Ibbotson and the loss of both men has been mourned by the football world.
At Cardiff’s first game since the tragedy, away at Arsenal, Sala, who should have been making his debut that night, was named on the team sheet of the matchday programme with a daffodil next to his name. A yellow flower, the colour of Nantes and the flower of Wales, it was a nice gesture from the North London club before a match which, along with hundreds of others across England, France and elsewhere, began with a minute of silence.
At Sala’s former side, Nantes, their first match since the news was completely halted at the 9th minute in honour of the player and the shirt number he wore for the Ligue 1 outfit. And finally, as Cardiff City played their first home game since the sad news, their vital 2-0 win was dedicated to the player and a shirt with his face was held aloft in celebration of the opening goal.
In what has been a tough week for many, most of all for the family and friends of Emilano Sala and David Ibbotson, the football community has displayed a togetherness which underlines that some things are more important than what goes on inside the white lines of a football pitch.