Argentines pay tribute to Sala at special memorial

Tributes were paid to footballer Emiliano Sala on Saturday at a special memorial in his home region of Santa Fe, Argentina.

The body of the 28-year old, who died in a plane crash last month, was laid out in a gymnasium in the town where he grew up so friends and family could pay their last respects.

A single-engine plane carrying Sala from his French club Nantes to his new team Cardiff City crashed on Jan. 21 in the English Channel, before he could make his debut for the Premier League side.

Wreckage was found on Feb. 3 following a privately funded underwater search and a body was recovered three days later.

Sala's body was flown back to Argentina and arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday morning before being driven the 538 km (334 miles) to Progreso, where he grew up.

The gymnasium of the Atletico y Social San Martin de Progreso club hosted boys' teams where Sala played as a child.

Residents in the town of around 2,500 people, many wearing the red and black shirt of the local side with the name EMI on the back, began arriving at about 7 a.m. on Saturday to see the body and pay their last respects.

Outside, fans draped a banner saying, "Emi, nunca caminaras solo" or "Emi, You'll Never Walk Alone."

"It's as if he was a member of my family," said Lucia Torres, who lives nearby. "It's something I can't understand nor accept because it hurts so much. The town has been in darkness since January 21."

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and the club's chief executive Ken Choo are among those who will attend the funeral this weekend.

"He is my player, he's signed for me," Warnock said of Sala, adding that he'd met with striker's family. "And then you look around the whole village here. It's like the whole village is part of it; I've never known anything like it.

"People showed me pictures where he was four years of age and then seven years and I spoke with his teacher."

"I would like to find a responsible person... someone who says to me, 'This happened', but, well, it seems this was just an accident," said Sala's aunt, Mirta Taffarel.