Young players and amateur football club in Ghana’s capital Accra are reacting after former Ghana international Christian Atsu was found dead, almost two weeks after a devastating earthquake in Turkey. “This is a good soul taken out of the community and taken out of the country,” says Nana Kweku-Ajimai, founder of Ghana project football club.
“Christian Atsu’s good deeds is all out there for people to see. Helping the poor in their communities, in his own village, here in Accra, here in Ghana, and all over. Playing for the Black Stars (Ghana national team) and all the things he has done for the club. The motivation he has given people to want to become footballers. So Christian will be remembered for the rest of our lives. He is gone but he is with us in spirit.” Kweku-Ajimai added.
Atsu’s manager in Turkey, Murat Uzunmehmet, told DHA news agency on Saturday that his body had been found under the rubble of luxury flats that crumbled in the Turkish southern province of Hatay.
There were initial reports the former Chelsea and Newcastle player had been rescued a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false.
“We have reached his lifeless body. His belongings are still being removed. His phone was also found,” Uzunmehmet told DHA.
Ghana’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had “received the unfortunate news”. “The elder brother and twin sister of Christian Atsu and an officer of the (Ghanaian) embassy were present at the site when the body was recovered,” the ministry said in a statement.
Ghana said it was working with the Turkish government to organise the transport of the body back to Atsu’s home country for burial.
Midfielder Atsu scored the last of his 33 career goals for Hatayspor in Turkey’s Super Lig on February 5, hours before the quake struck.
“There are no words to describe our sadness,” tweeted his Turkish top-flight club.
– ‘Special person’ –
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person.”
Earlier in his career he spent four seasons at Chelsea, mostly out on loan, before a permanent transfer to Newcastle in 2017.
Chelsea issued a statement declaring: “It is with enormous sadness that Chelsea Football Club receives the news that Christian Atsu is confirmed as one of the many victims of the dreadful earthquake in Turkey and Syria.”
Newcastle also paid hommage to “a talented player and a special person”.
The club added: “He will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters.
“Initially joining on loan, he played a key role in the Magpies squad that secured the Championship title in 2017 before making a permanent move to help us establish our place back in the Premier League.”
On the international stage Atsu earned the first of his 65 senior caps with Ghana in 2012.
At the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations he scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Guinea in the quarter-finals. The Black Stars reached the final, losing on penalties to the Ivory Coast with Atsu picking up both the Player and the Goal of the tournament awards. He was also part of the Ghana squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Search and rescue workers found Atsu’s body where he was staying at Ronesans Residence, a block of high-rise luxury flats that toppled over in Antakya city in Hatay.
Turkish police arrested the building’s contractor at Istanbul airport last week as he appeared to be heading to Montenegro, according to state news agency Anadolu.
African football rulers CAF said they mourned “the tragic passing of Christian Atsu” while Ghana’s Football Federation noted “the sad news” had come “after almost two weeks of emotional torture”.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said “football has lost one of its finest personnel and ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace”.
Born on January 10, 1992, in the coastal town of Ada Foah Atsu is survived by his wife and three children.