The body of Ghanaian footballer, Christian Atsu has been flown home to Ghana after his tragic death in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
On February 6, two powerful earthquakes struck southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border, killing over 45,000 people, with thousands more injured.
There were initial reports that Christian Atsu, 31, had been rescued and hospitalized a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false, as his body was found under his home in southern Turkey on Saturday, February 18.
His Turkish agent, Murat Uzunmehmet, confirmed the news to Reuters saying Atsu’s lifeless body was found under the rubble of the building where he lived in the city of Hatay.
The flight that carried the body of the former Chelsea and Newcastle United player landed in Accra late on Sunday, and his coffin was carried away by members of Ghana’s armed forces.
Speaking at Kotoka airport in the capital Accra, Ghana’s Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said: “We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more.”
Mr Bawumia added the late footballer was much loved and would be sorely missed. “It is a painful loss, a very painful one.” He promised Atsu would be given a “befitting” burial.
Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, said: “Football has lost one of its finest ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace”.
Ghana’s foreign ministry said that Atsu’s older brother and twin sister were present at the site of the rescue when his body was recovered.
His widow Marie-Claire Rupio and their three children were in the stands at St James’ Park in Northeast England on Saturday to join in a tribute to the player before Newcastle’s Premier League match against Liverpool.
Christian Atsu joined Hatayspor in Turkey’s Super Lig in September 2022 following a year in Saudi Arabia with Al-Raed. He won 65 caps for Ghana and also played for Porto, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Everton and Newcastle United.
KanyiDaily recalls that Turkey President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared a three-month state of emergency in southern areas of his country that were hit by two earthquakes.