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Southampton fans face ban for making Emiliano Sala airplane taunts

Fans in the stands at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium paid tribute to Emiliano Sala ahead of the game Saturday against his Cardiff City team. (Mark Kerton/PA via AP)

Two Southampton fans who taunted Cardiff City supporters by making airplane gestures, an apparent reference to the crash that killed striker Emiliano Sala, will be banned by the club.

The gestures were in stark contrast to the tributes to Sala, whose body was recovered Thursday from the English Channel, that took place at soccer matches in England and France. The plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson disappeared from radar on the evening of Jan. 21 as it flew from Nantes, where Sala formerly played, to Wales, where he was to join his new Cardiff club. Ibbotson’s body has not been found.

“Such behavior has no place in our game and will not be tolerated at St. Mary’s,” Southhampton said in a statement. “Southampton Football Club can confirm that two fans were detained and had their details taken by police during our match against Cardiff City on Saturday. “The club will continue to work with Hampshire Police to identify any individuals deemed to have made indecent gestures towards Cardiff supporters.

“The club will be taking an extremely firm stance against anyone involved and intends to ban those supporters identified.”

The game, which Cardiff won, 2-1, in injury time in Southampton, was preceded by a moment of silence and capped an emotional week for the team. “We wanted to do it for Emiliano,” Manager Neil Warnock said (via the BBC) of the win, “and I’m really proud the lads have done him justice.”

In Nantes, players wore black shirts with his name on the back in their first home game since Sala’s death was confirmed last week. The 28-year-old striker from Argentina had spent four seasons with the club, which plans to retire his number 9.

Sala’s plane was recovered, with Sala still in the fuselage, near Guernsey after a fundraising effort, with donors such as Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, paid for the private search for Sala and Ibbotson. According to the Sun, more than $500,000 was raised. Mbappe contributed nearly $35,000 after a new appeal by Ibbotson’s family, according to the BBC. More than 7,000 donations have been received, totaling nearly $168,000 of the $387,000 goal.

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