Christian Atsu: Body of Ghana star killed in Turkey earthquake flown home

The flight landed in Accra late on Sunday, and his coffin was carried away by members of Ghana's armed forces

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The body of Christian Atsu, the former Ghana international footballer who died in a devastating earthquake in Turkey, was flown home on Sunday, the country's foreign ministry said.

The flight landed in Accra late on Sunday, and his coffin was carried away by members of Ghana's armed forces. The coffin was later due to be transported to a military hospital morgue.

Atsu, 31, was caught up in a 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, which has claimed more than 46,000 lives in both countries.

He had been playing for Turkish Super Lig club Hatayspor.

There were initial reports the former Chelsea and Newcastle United player had been rescued a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false and his body was found under his home in southern Turkey on Saturday.

Speaking at Kotoka airport in the capital Accra, Ghana's Vice-President Mahamudu Bawmia said: "We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more."

"It is a painful loss, a very painful one," he added.

On Saturday, the 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.

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 club in homage to him.

"We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person."

He previously played for his national team, representing the Black Stars 65 times and helped his side reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final.

Ghana's President, Nana Akufo-Addo, said: "Football has lost one of its finest ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace".

Meanwhile, a children’s charity described the ex-Chelsea winger as a “wonderful man” whose “legacy will live on through the many hundreds if not thousands of lives he has helped.”

Atsu had been an ambassador for global children’s charity Arms Around The Child (AATC) since 2016, was the main benefactor of a new school that is nearing completion in Senya Beraku in Ghana, and visited children and the project there on several occasions.

“The children looked up to him, he showed them that they can have dreams for a better future and that through education, dreams can be achieved," a spokesperson for AATC said.

"This is why Christian was so passionate about building a school, he believed in education for all, especially as a way to solve problems and give kids a brighter future.”

Updated: February 20, 2023, 4:53 AM