Former Premier League star Christian Atsu went missing after the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria 12 days ago and his death was confirmed on Saturday morning.
Christian Atsu has died aged 31, his agent and manager have both confirmed.
The former Premier League footballer, who played for both Newcastle United and Chelsea, went missing following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria on Monday, February 6. His body has now been discovered and the sad news was confirmed on Saturday morning
Atsu was reported as missing within hours of the earthquake. He scored a last-minute winner for current club Hatayspor in their home game against Turkish Super Lig rivals Kasimpasa on Sunday, February 5 – just hours before the devastating event unfolded. Atsu joined the Turkish side last September and was in the city of Antakya when the earthquake struck. He also represented the likes of Porto, Everton, Bournemouth and Malaga during his career, as well as playing international football for Ghana.
His agent, Nana Sechere, said: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce to all well wishers that sadly Christian Atsu’s body was recovered this morning 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.
“I ask that whilst we make the necessary arrangements, that everyone would please respect the privacy of the family during this very difficult time.”
Hatayspor tweeted: “Sorry for your loss. The funeral of our football player Christian Atsu, who lost his life under the collapse, is on his way to be sent to his hometown Ghana. We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness. Rest in peace.”
Hatayspor had initially announced that Atsu was found alive and pulled from the rubble on Tuesday, February 7. Atsu’s agent, Nana Sechere, told sports journaliss that his client was plunged from the ninth floor of an 11-storey building following the earthquake..
Sechere was told that Atsu was in the hospital and stable, but had not heard from him. On Wednesday, February 9 Hatayspor announced that he was still missing. Nine days later, the news everyone was fearing was confirmed.
A number of Turkey’s Super Lig sides have also paid tribute. Trabzonspor tweeted: “We have learned with deep sadness that Christian Atsu, football player of Atakas Hatayspor, lost his life as a result of the earthquake disaster. Our condolences to Christian Atsu’s family, relatives, fans and the Atakaş Hatayspor community.”
The Turkish football federation added: “It is with deep sadness that we have learned that Christian Atsu, the football player of Atakaş Hatayspor, lost his life in the earthquake disaster that shocked our country. Our condolences to Christian Atsu’s family, relatives, fans and Hatayspor community.”
More tributes are expected to follow throughout Saturday.
Atsu started his professional career with Porto – where he won the Primeira Liga title – and spent time on loan at fellow Portuguese side Rio Ave. He joined Chelsea in September 2013 but never played a minute for the Premier League club during his four-year spell.
Nicnkamed the ‘Ghanaian Lionel Messi’ at the start of his career, Atsu aspired to follow in the footsteps of the Argentine legend.
He told reporters in 2012: “Messi is my idol. There’s no Ghanaian Messi, there is no other Messi in this world. I can never play even one per cent of what Messi is doing. It’s impossible.”
Atsu spent time on loan at Vitesse, Everton, Bournemouth, Malaga and Newcastle before joining the latter club permanently in May 2017. He signed for Saudi Arabian club Al-Raed in July 2021 after his Newcastle contract expired.
Atsu was also an established international. He scored nine goals in 65 outings for Ghana, with the last of those caps coming in 2019. He was part of the Ghana squad that reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 – losing on penalties to the Ivory Coast.
Atsu was the star of the 2015 AFCON. He was named as the Player of the Tournament, in the Team of the Tournament and won the Goal of the Tournament prize.
He also represented his country at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and three other AFCON editions.
The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has led to more than 45,000 deaths, with thousands more injured. It has ruined the lives of millions, with many people left without access to water, electricity or heat during a bitterly cold winter in the region.
Rescuers are still digging through the rubble tirelessly in the hope of finding survivors. A Syrian man even suffered a broken back after trying to protect his children from a collapsed ceiling. “As we were sleeping, we opened our eyes, stood up, and the ceiling fell on us,” Amani, 26, whose name has been changed.
“Within seconds, I don’t know how long, in minutes, the ceiling was on top of us. We tried to walk out but we couldn’t the ceiling immediately fell on us. We stayed for four hours under the rubble shouting, praying, but no one heard us.”
The quakes in Syria have compounded conditions that were already deemed unliveable by many. Whole families are now crammed into single tents at a time when the country remains at war. “It’s more difficult than the war itself,” says Jamal Balî, 35, an activist from Kobani.
The World Health Organisation have described it as the worst natural disaster in 100 years as the humanitarian efforts gather pace. The earthquake measured at least at least 7.8 on the Richter scale, causing serious damage to buildings along the fault line.
Boxing great Amir Khan has joined those in attempting to help by working with Turkish Airlines to deliver vital aid to the country. Celebrity chef Salt Bae has promised to provide 5,000 meals every day to aid the response to the devastating earthquake in his native Turkey also.
A United Nations chief warned earlier this week that the death toll could eventually increase to more than 50,000.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told Sky News: “I think it is difficult to estimate precisely [how many have died] as we need to get under the rubble but I’m sure it will double or more