Ghana international striker Christian Atsu, who played for Premier League clubs Chelsea and Newcastle, has died in the earthquake in Turkey. he was 31
Atsu is currently playing for Turkish club Hatayspor in the quake-hit Hatay province.
Search teams recovered Atsu’s body in the ruins of a 12-storey luxury building where he had been living in the city of Antakya in Hatay province, his manager said on Saturday.
“Atsu’s lifeless body was found under the rubble. At the moment, his belongings are still being removed,” manager Murat Uzunmehmet told the private news agency DHA.
Atsu joined Turkish club Hatayspor in September and scored the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Kasimpasa hours before the earthquake, according to CBS Sports.
Hatayspor said Atsu’s body will be transferred to Ghana. “There are no words to describe our sadness,” the club tweeted.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo posted a photo of Atsu on his official Twitter account and wrote: “Ghana’s football has lost one of its best associates and ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace. He will be sorely missed.”
Former Ghana captain and teammate Asamoah Gyan tweeted “RIP Brother”.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that Christian Atsu has died in the devastation caused by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts and condolences are with Christian’s family and friends and everyone affected by this tragic event.” tweeted.
One day after the earthquake there were reports that Atsu had been rescued, but Hatayspor, after initially announcing that it had received information that Atsu was alive and on the way to the hospital, later said that the reports of a successful rescue were false and that he always was still missing. It was also said that the club’s sporting director Taner Savut was still missing.
Savut has not yet been found.
The builder of the 12-storey Ronesans Rezidans building – where Atsu and Savut lived – was arrested at Istanbul Airport a week ago and appears to be attempting to leave the country.
Atsu’s agent, Nana Sechere, traveled to Turkey with members of Atsu’s family to find him, clinging to the hope that he might be alive amidst the rubble. Sechere had urged Hatayspor authorities and officials to step up their efforts in finding Atsu and Savut.
In a statement Tuesday, Sechere said rescuers were able to pinpoint the exact location of Atsu’s room in his collapsed apartment building over a week after the devastating earthquake, but the only thing they recovered were two pairs of his shoes.
Sechere confirmed on Saturday that Atsu’s body was found. He posted a message on Twitter: “My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Atsu has played more than 60 times for Ghana and scored on his debut aged 20 in 2012. He was part of the Ghana squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and scored twice at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to help Ghana reach the final, where it lost to Ivory Coast on penalties.
At this Africa Cup of Nations he was named player of the tournament.
Atsu was signed by Chelsea in 2013 but his time there was limited to appearances in exhibition matches and he was loaned out to various clubs over the next four years. The winger joined Newcastle on loan in 2016 and was part of the team that won promotion back to the Premier League in the 2016/17 season.
He signed a permanent contract with Newcastle in 2017 and spent four years there. The club said on Saturday they were “deeply saddened” by Atsu’s death.
“A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters,” Newcastle tweeted.
The Ghana Football Association added: “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to his wife and children, family, loved ones and the football community.”