The world of football returned to mourning Friday after a body recovered by British investigators from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the Channel was identified as that of footballer Emiliano Sala.
The Argentine striker’s body was recovered on Wednesday and brought to the Isle of Portland in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship on Thursday for formal identification by coroners.
“The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified… as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala,” police in Dorset, the county where the body was taken, said on Twitter.
“The families of Mr Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have been updated. Our thoughts remain with them all,” police said.
The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near Guernsey on 21 January, along with 59-year-old Ibbotson.
In the wake of the identification, Sala’s family, as well as the rest of the Argentine and global football community, grieved on Friday.
“We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother,” the Argentine Cardiff City striker’s family said in a statement.
“We would like to thank you for all of your signs of affection and support in the most painful time of our life.
“To see everyone doing everything possible to join us in the search has been a precious help to us,” the family said.
Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero, a fellow Argentinian, tweeted: “Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family.”
Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, who had joined calls for the search for the pair to be resumed after it was called off, also sent his condolences to Sala’s family on Twitter, saying: “We are with you.”
Mesut Özil of Arsenal wrote: “No words to describe how sad this is. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and also to the family of the pilot.”
Argentine footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta also paid tribute to Sala, 28.
His former French club, Nantes, said it was withdrawing the jersey with Sala’s number 9 on it and all Ligue 1 and 2 matches in France this weekend will be preceded by a minute of applause for him.