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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Tom Blow

Christian Atsu's wife in tears after emotional tribute ahead of Newcastle vs Liverpool

Christian Atsu's wife and three children visited St James' Park on Saturday evening to pay tribute to the late Ghana international.

A minute's applause was observed ahead of Newcastle's game against Liverpool after news of Atsu's passing broke on Saturday morning. The 31-year-old's body was discovered underneath the rubble - 12 days after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.

More than 45,000 people are known to have died following the tragedy, with thousands more injured. Atsu, who played for the likes of Porto, Chelsea, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Everton, was on the books at Turkish club Hatayspor when the disaster struck.

Christian Atsu's wife Marie-Claire Rupio attended Saturday evening's game (@SkySportsPL/Twitter)

Atsu's body will be flown to Ghana ahead of his funeral. His wife Marie-Claire Rupio and his three children - two boys and a girl - were invited to the Liverpool game to pay tribute to the late star. The winger played 121 games for Newcastle during a five-year spell.

As Newcastle fans applauded their former hero, Marie-Claire was spotted fighting back the tears and consoling her two sons. Liverpool fans joined in with the tribute by singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to show support to those grieving Atsu's passing.

Christiano Atsu's body was discovered underneath the rubble following the devastating earthquake (PA)

Atsu was reported missing shortly after the earthquake. He played for Hatayspor the evening before and scored a last-minute winner against Kasimpasa. He was scheduled to catch a flight that evening but decided to stay in Turkey - unaware of what was coming.

Hatayspor had initially announced that Atsu was found alive and pulled from the rubble on Tuesday, February 7. Yet the player's agent Nana Sechere was unable to contact him. On Thursday, February 9, Hatayspor announced that Atsu was still missing.

The earthquake has caused devastation in Turkey and Syria (Humphrey Nemar/sunday express)

Ghana's foreign ministry have confirmed Atsu's body will be flown back to the country of his birth. A statement read: "The Government of Ghana is making arrangements to receive the mortal remains of the late Christian Atsu, a former Black Stars player.

"The remains will be accompanied by his family and Ghana's Ambassador to Turkiye on a Turkish airlines flight and will arrive in Accra at 7:40pm, Sunday 19th February, 2023."

Atsu's brother and sister were present when his body was recovered from the rubble. Rafa Benitez, who coached Atsu at Newcastle, paid tribute to the late star during Sky Sports' coverage of Liverpool's 2-0 win at St James' Park.

Benitez said: "It’s really sad because he was a nice, nice, special person. He was a good professional. I don’t talk about if he’s a good player or not, he was a nice lad and a good player, but especially a really nice person. So a special person and everybody always, you can see the pictures, always with a smile playing or not playing."

Both sets of players and fans observed a minute's applause for the late winger (Getty Images)

Write your tribute to Christian Atsu in the comments

Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin added: "It's a really sad day for Newcastle and the players. Most of the players know him well - he was a great guy and we had a nice time with him. It's very painful. Some things are difficult for me - I will never forget him."

"It's hard to explain - I will tell you the truth, when I arrived in Newcastle, he was always giving me advice, a very nice guy - he would always joke and smile every day.

"He was a great person. I know him... it's a difficult day for me. I will try to do my best and think about him and do my best."

Several current Newcastle players played alongside Atsu at St James' Park. Manager Eddie Howe said: "We’re treating it as the tragedy that it is, giving him our thoughts and our prayers and to his family as well. We want to support them in this moment."

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