ST. PETER PORT, Guernsey – This island in the English Channel, where French poet and novelist Victor Hugo lived in exile and former Southampton FC great Matt Le Tissier first kicked a ball, has become the focus of international attention since the small plane carrying Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala went missing in the skies near Guernsey on Jan. 21.
The plane’s disappearance put Guernsey, which is home to a little more than 63,000 people, on the front pages of newspapers, albeit in a tragic way, a resident named Phil told EFE.
He recalled that when traveling abroad, he would be asked where he was from and people would react with puzzlement when he said “Guernsey,” inspiring to load a map onto his cell phone so he could show them.
Exiled from France by Napoleon III, Hugo would end up living on Guernsey for 15 years, from 1855 to 1870, in Hauteville House, since converted into a museum.
It was during his stay on the island that Hugo wrote his masterpiece, “Les Miserables.”
Ninety-eight years after Hugo’s departure, Guernsey witnessed the birth of Le Tissier, who scored 161 goals in 443 appearances for Southampton over the course of a 16-year-long career spent entirely with the South Coast side.
The “One Club Man” scored a memorable goal for the Saints against Blackburn Rovers on Dec. 10, 1994, and was also a member of the England national team.
“He scored some spectacular goals,” Brian, a taxi driver in St. Peter Port, said of Le Tissier, adding that the player-turned-broadcaster still visits Guernsey from time to time.
Now, the island is back in the limelight after the Piper PA-46 Malibu carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson lost contact with air traffic controllers after taking off from the French city of Nantes on its way to the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
Sala, 28, had joined Premier League club Cardiff City from Nantes days earlier and was returning to Wales from a quick visit to say goodbye to his former teammates in France.
The United Kingdom government agency that investigates civil aircraft accidents announced recently that wreckage of a plane identified as the one in which Sala was traveling was discovered in the English Channel with at least one body among the debris.
Sala and Ibbotson, 59, were declared missing after the plane disappeared from radar screens some 24km (15mi) north of Guernsey at 8.23 pm on Jan. 21.