Tributes pour in for Christian Atsu after death in Turkey earthquake

Former Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu’s body has been recovered (Adam Davy/PA)
Former Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu’s body has been recovered (Adam Davy/PA)

Tributes have been paid to Christian Atsu, the Ghana international forward who died in the earthquake in Turkey.

Atsu, who was 31, played for Premier League clubs Chelsea and Newcastle. He joined joined Turkish club Hatayspor in September and scored the winning goal for his new team in a league game at home on 5 February, just hours before the earthquake struck in the pre-dawn hours the following day.

Atsu’s agent, Nana Sechere, traveled to Turkey with members of Atsu’s family in an attempt to find him, holding onto hopes that he might be alive amid the wreckage. Sechere had urged authorities and Hatayspor officials to step up their efforts in the search for Atsu and the club’s sporting director, Taner Savut.

Search teams recovered Atsu’s body in the ruins of a luxury 12-story building where he had been living in the city of Antakya, Hatay province, his manager said Saturday. Savut has still not been found.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sechere said rescuers had been able to pinpoint Atsu’s exact room location in his collapsed apartment building over a week after the devastating earthquake but the only thing they recovered were two pairs of his shoes.

Sechere confirmed on Saturday that Atsu’s body was found. He posted a message on Twitter: “My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their prayers and support.”

His club Hatayspor tweeted: “The body of our footballer Christian Atsu ... is on its way to be sent to his hometown Ghana. We will not forget you, Atsu. Let your place be a paradise, beautiful person. There is no words for our sadness. Rest in peace.”

The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, also posted a message, writing: “I extend sincere, heartfelt condolences to the widow, children and family of our fellow Ghanaian, Christian Atsu, on the sad news of his death. Ghana football has lost one of its finest personnel and ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace. He’ll be sorely missed.

“May his soul rest in the Bosom of the Almighty until the Last Day of the Resurrection when we shall all meet again. Amen!”

Newcastle United, with whom he made the biggest impact in the English game, tweeted: “ We are profoundly saddened to learn that Christian Atsu has tragically lost his life in Turkey’s devastating earthquakes. A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters. Rest in peace, Christian. “

The Ghana Football Assocation tweeted: “The Ghana Football Association has received the sad news of the recovery of the body of Christian Atsu from the rubble following the earthquake that struck Southern and Central Turkey on Monday, February 6, 2023. May his Soul Rest in Peace!”

Fifa added: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Christian Atsu. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and all those affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.”

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additional reporting by AP