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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Freddie Keighley

Christian Atsu's body arrives home in Ghana to guard of honour following tragic death

There were heartbreaking scenes on Sunday night as the coffin carrying Christian Atsu's body landed at Accra airport in his native Ghana.

The winger, who spent time at Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle, was pronounced dead at the age of 31 at the weekend. His body was found 12 days after an earthquake rocked Turkey - where he played for top-flight club Hatayspor - and Syria, leading to the destruction of his apartment building in Antakya.

Atsu's body was flown to his homeland on Sunday and the plane was met by Ghana's vice-president, Mahamudu Bawumia, and a large detail of soldiers. As one of his country's leading athletes and a kind-hearted philanthropist, Atsu was a hugely popular figure among Ghanaians, and dozens of mourners turned out to pay their respects to him.

The former Premier League star's coffin was draped in the national flag and carried by six soldiers before his body was taken to a military hospital mortuary. A funeral is expected to take place in the coming days to mark a loss described as "a very painful one" by Bawumia.

Discussing the harrowing 12-day wait before Atsu's body was found, the vice-president added: "We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more."

Christian Atsu's coffin was draped in the Ghanaian flag and carried by six soldiers (AFP via Getty Images)

Atsu is survived by his wife, Marie-Claire Rupio, and their three children. His family were in attendance at St James' Park on Saturday evening as Newcastle - whom he made 121 appearances for - and Liverpool paid tribute to him with a minute's silence ahead of their Premier League fixture.

Adding to the tragedy of his death, Atsu cancelled a flight out of Turkey a matter of hours before the earthquake struck at 4am on 6 February. He had scored an added-time winner in the Super Lig fixture against Kasimpasa on 5 February and decided to postpone a trip to see family abroad.

Write your message of support for Christian Atsu's loved ones in the comments section.

Over 46,000 people have died after the initial earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February (Getty Images)

Reports shortly after the earthquake claimed Atsu had been found alive by search and rescue teams and taken to hospital, but Hatayspor's team doctor later confirmed he was still missing. Family members spent over a week searching for their loved one and his older brother and twin sister were present when his body was found on Saturday.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce to all wellwishers that sadly Christian Atsu's body was recovered this morning," Atsu's agent, Nana Sechere, said. "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."

Family members and mourners waited to receive Christian Atsu's coffin (AFP via Getty Images)

The Premier League led the tributes to Atsu by writing on Twitter : "We are deeply saddened by the news Christian Atsu lost his life in the devastation of the earthquakes that have hit Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts and condolences are with Christian's family and friends and everyone affected by this tragic event."

Atsu was an ambassador for Arms Around The World, a "global charity building a better and kinder environment for children living in extreme adversity, orphaned, abandoned, at risk of child abuse – sexual or otherwise, trafficked or living in child-headed households". During his playing career, he won the Primeira Liga with Porto and reached the Africa Cup of Nations final with Ghana in 2015, losing to Ivory Coast.

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