Cardiff City fans paid tribute to Emiliano Sala before their game Tuesday against Arsenal. (Nick Potts/PA via Associated Press)

Seat cushions believed to have come from the plane that vanished over the English Channel while carrying Cardiff City soccer player Emiliano Sala have been found on a beach near Surtainville in France.

The United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Wednesday that the cushions were found by French authorities on the Cotentin Peninsula. Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson have been missing since their Piper PA-46-310P Malibu disappeared from radar on Jan. 21. The flight was en route that evening from Nantes, where Sala previously had played, to the Cardiff team with which he had recently signed.

A search of the waters near Guernsey, which lies west of the Cotentin Peninsula, was called off after three days, with harbor master David Barker calling the chances of finding survivors “extremely remote.” A crowdfunding campaign led to the resumption of the search Sunday and the AAIB said it has commissioned a vessel that will, because of weather and sea conditions, begin searching the seabed later this week. David Mearns, a marine scientist who is leading the private search and is a Sala family spokesman, tweeted that both vessels will work together as “safely, completely and efficiently as possible.”

Both Cardiff and Arsenal paid tribute to Sala before their match, a 2-1 win for Arsenal, on Tuesday in Emirates Stadium. “We never saw you play, we never saw you score, but Emiliano, our beautiful Bluebird, we will love you forever more,” said a sign held by one fan.

“What’s gone on this week is unprecedented, really. I can’t explain really how it’s been. You’ve not really wanted to get out of bed because everything was really miserable,” Cardiff Manager Neil Warnock said (via ESPN). “Nobody could do anything about it. It’s been really difficult. I know we’ve lost a game of football, but there are more important things.”

Goaltender Sol Bamba said it was “very difficult to even describe. It is very unusual, a big tragedy. We have all been affected by it, the lads, the city, the whole club. I think we needed something like this, the game, to get underway so we’re back as normal, if I can say [that]. But it was a very difficult week.”

In part, players were confronting their fear of flying.

“We travel . . . by plane, and some of the lads have been thinking, ‘I don’t want to go on it anymore,’ ” Bamba said. “It was that deep.”

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