The coffin of footballer Emiliano Sala, who died in a plane crash between Nantes and Cardiff, arrived in Argentina on Friday ahead of his funeral in his hometown of Progreso.
The British Airways flight carrying the body landed shortly after 9am local time at Ezeiza international airport. A van waited to drive it for funeral ceremonies in northeastern Santa Fe, the capital of Santa Fe province, before it is returned to the family for final rites on Saturday.
"This is a day of historic grief for Progreso. We could never have imagined this, we are all in a state of shock," Daniel Ribero, president of the San Martín de Progreso club, where Sala played for 10 years as a child.
The majority of the 3,000 inhabitants of Progreso are planning to place a flower on the coffin of their hero, local outlets reported.
Sala's body was recovered from the plane wreckage in the English Channel last week. He was flying to his new team, English Premier League side Cardiff City, from his old French club Nantes when his plane went missing on January 21.
The 28-year-old died of "head and trunk injuries," an inquest in England heard on Monday. He was traveling in a light aircraft that disappeared near the British island of Guernsey. The wreckage was found on the seabed but 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson remains missing.
A wake for his family and local people is scheduled to take place on Saturday at San Martín de Progreso's gymnasium. Sala visited the club every time he visited Progreso.
"The last time he came, during the World Cup in Russia [in 2018], he asked for permission to have an asado at the club," said Ribero, expressing his admiration for the player's simplicity.
Both Nantes and Cardiff have sent delegations to Argentina for the player's funeral. Nantes defender, Nicolas Pallois, one of the Argentine's closest friends, and the club's Secretary General Loïc Morin, will represent the French club. Welsh side Cardiff will be represented by Manager Neil Warnock and Chief Executive Ken Choo.
On Saturday, after the wake in Progreso, Sala's body will be transferred again to a funeral home in Santa Fe for cremation.