Cardiff City chairman Ken Choo has said the first anniversary of the death of Emiliano Sala is a time to remember the player, while insisting he has no regrets about the actions of the club since.
Cardiff and Nantes will pay tribute to Sala one year on from the plane crash which claimed his life at the age of 28, with the clubs still locked in a legal dispute over his transfer fee.
On January 21, 2019, the Piper Malibu light aircraft carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson from France to the UK crashed into the English Channel, as he prepared to link up with his new team-mates.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) ruled in August last year that the Argentinian was exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide prior to the crash. Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 of last year but Ibbotson’s body has not been found.
A Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing to settle the dispute between Cardiff and Nantes is set to be fixed for the spring, with no decision expected before June.
The players’ status committee of world governing body FIFA ruled in September that Cardiff must pay Nantes the six million euro (£5.3million) first instalment of the transfer fee.
When the full written decision was published in November it was revealed Cardiff would face a three-window transfer ban if the money was not paid.
Cardiff have challenged the decision by FIFA, stating that the relevant paperwork was not complete at the time of Sala’s death and Choo insists he doesn’t have any regrets over the way the club has handled the situation.
He told Sky Sports News: “I think we have always maintained our position. If we are required to pay the money, we should. But if you look at the legal process and the contract, it is very clear, it is not the case.
“January 21 isn’t about the dispute of funds and contracts, which all of us have our point of view on. It is about the memory of Emiliano, the pain the families and friends are experiencing. That should be the focal point.
“He was an amazing player. We still feel the same way about him today as we did. He would have made a lot of difference to our performance.”
Nantes are planning to put a commemorative shirt “inspired by Sala’s home country” on sale from Tuesday. The team will then wear the shirt in the Ligue 1 match against Bordeaux on Sunday.
The French club said all proceeds from sales of the shirt would go to the two clubs in Argentina where Sala began his career – Club San Martin de Progreso and Proyecto Crecer.
A minute’s applause will also take place before the match against Bordeaux – the club Nantes signed Sala from in July 2015 – to remember the Argentinian and another Nantes favourite Philippe Gondet, who died aged 75 on January 21, 2018.
The Bluebirds have invited supporters to lay flowers at their stadium and some staff will attend a memorial service at St. David’s Cathedral in Cardiff city centre.
Bluebirds manager Neil Harris was an observer when Sala’s death stunned the sporting world.
“It was tragic for everyone, first and foremost his family and his friends and then everyone in the football industry,” said Neil Warnock’s successor.
“It’s in moments like that when everyone pulls together, you really feel for a lad who was following his dream of playing in English football.
“Speaking to people at the club, I’ve got an understanding of how difficult it was for everyone, from outside looking in I could see the sorrow in everyone.
“You can’t comprehend it. Moving on, it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds, football is important but you have to think of people’s families and think about them at this time.”