FABIO DA SILVA has relived the heart-wrenching moment the Nantes players were told Emiliano Sala’s plane had gone missing.
Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson were killed when their light-aircraft ditched in the Channel on the way to beginning his new career as a Cardiff player.
Former Manchester United star Fabio was a team-mate of Sala’s at the French club – even advising him to make his £15million move to Cardiff.
And in an interview with ESPN, Fabio has revealed the torment within the Nantes dressing room as news began to filter through about the tragic disappearance of the plane.
He said: “We came into training on Tuesday morning and Nico [Pallois], our centre-back, said to Anthony, who works at the club, during breakfast: ‘Just check what time Sala arrived in Cardiff because he never texted me back. He texted me when he was on the plane, and he said he would text when he arrived.’
“Nico wasn’t worried. We sat down for breakfast; the players have every meal together at Nantes.
The coach didn’t care if we lost points or got fined: he said we were not playing
Fabio Da Silva
“Anthony came back and said: ‘Nico, come here.’ Then he said: ‘The plane is missing.’
“Nico was destroyed. Then Anthony told everyone. People started to cry.
“When you hear that the plane is missing, you fear – you know – that something terrible has happened. You want to believe something else, but you know.
“The coach [Vahid Halilhodzic] was very upset, and the players went home. The preparation for the cup game stopped.
“The coach didn’t care if we lost points or got fined: he said we were not playing. The coach had cried in front of us when he said Sala was leaving – he was very close to him.
“I went home and grabbed and hugged my family, my daughters.
“The next game was postponed, and the one after that was against Saint-Etienne at home.
“That night was so, so emotional. Everyone was crying before the game – everyone – including me.
“We played a football game in that environment, with fans singing Sala’s name again and again. I was sent off: the referees are stronger here in France.
“What happened to Emiliano was tragic. When you’re a footballer, you see more of your teammates than you do of your family because you are always training and travelling.
“And one day your friend is here and the next he is not.”
Fabio, 28, is still struggling to come to terms with the fact he felt involved in the tragedy, having advised Sala to move to his former club Cardiff.
The defender added: “It’s hard to speak about this, but Emiliano asked me about Cardiff because I had been there.
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“I told him that Cardiff City was a great club. Cardiff fans also told me to tell him about the club, which I did.
“Neil Warnock came to watch Sala play when we beat Marseille 3-2. Sala played very well that day, scoring and setting up a goal.
“He was a fantastic guy, extremely professional, and he scored lots of goals. We had a good relationship. It’s just so hard what happened.”