The body of Ghana soccer player Christian Atsu, who was found dead in his collapsed apartment building in the Turkey earthquake, has been repatriated.
Atsu’s remains arrived in the Ghanaian capital of Accra late Sunday, said Ghana Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, who led a government delegation to receive the body. Atsu’s body was carried home in a casket on a Turkish Airlines plane and was accompanied by members of his family and the Ghana ambassador to Turkey, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“This loss is a very painful one and this is a sad day for Ghana,” Bawumia said. “We all prayed and prayed, we hoped against hope for every day that passed, but God knows best.”
Atsu’s body was found in the rubble of a luxury 12-story building in the southern Turkish city of Antakya on Saturday, nearly two weeks after the devastating earthquake that has left more than 44,000 people dead in Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Reports emerged a day after the earthquake that Atsu had been rescued from the rubble, was alive and had been sent to the hospital, but they were mistaken.
The 31-year-old Atsu, who played for Premier League teams Chelsea and Newcastle, had joined Turkish club Hatayspor last year and scored the winning goal in a league game on 5 February, hours before the devastating earthquake struck in the pre-dawn hours of 6 February.
Hatayspor sporting director Taner Savut also lived in the same apartment building and was reported missing at the same time as Atsu. Savut has still not been found.
Bawumia promised that Atsu would be given a fitting funeral and said his death was a blow for the people of Ghana. Atsu played more than 60 times for his country after making his debut at the age of 20 in 2012.
Atsu was also remembered with moments of silence and other tributes at soccer games in England and elsewhere this weekend. At his former club Newcastle, fans held up placards with his photo. An image of him was put up on a big screen at Chelsea’s game against Southampton before kickoff.
Ghana midfielder Mohammed Kudus had “R.I.P Atsu” written on a white T-shirt under his team shirt and revealed the message after scoring a goal for Dutch club Ajax in a game on Sunday.
The Ghanaian soccer association ordered moments of silence to be observed at every professional game in the West African country on Saturday in honor of Atsu.