The body of footballer Christian Atsu, who died after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Syria a fortnight ago, has been returned to his home in Ghana.
The flight landed in Accra late on Sunday, and his coffin was carried by members of Ghana’s armed forces.
Atsu was found dead on Saturday under his home in southern Turkey several days after the earthquake. He had been playing for the Hatayspor club.
In a heartfelt statement, Hatayspor paid tribute to the winger: “The funeral of our football player, Christian Atsu, is on his way to be sent to his hometown in Ghana. We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness. REST in PEACE ATSU.”
Başımız sağ olsun.
Göçük altında kalarak hayatını kaybeden futbolcumuz Christian Atsu'nun cenazesi memleketi Gana'ya gönderilmek üzere yola çıkmıştır. Seni unutmayacağız Atsu. Mekanın cennet olsun güzel insan. Üzüntümüzün tarifi yok. Huzur içinde uyu. pic.twitter.com/2CSVfwfEuR
— Hatayspor (@Hatayspor_FK) February 18, 2023
The winger played 65 times for Ghana’s national team and helped his side reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final and also played for Premier League sides Everton and Newcastle.
Speaking at Kotoka airport in the capital Accra, Ghana’s Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said: “We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more.
“It is a painful loss, a very painful one.”
He promised Atsu would be given a “befitting” burial.
Over 44,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives across south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria following the earthquake which devastated 10 areas including Hatay.
Mohammed Kudus was meant to receive a yellow card for his tribute to Christian Atsu but referee Pol van Boekel opted not to book him, telling the Ajax forward he understands "this is a bigger situation than football.”
Class ❤️ pic.twitter.com/nnC3aRoOm8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 20, 2023
The footballer’s remains were accompanied from Turkey by his family and Ghana’s ambassador to Turkey, Francisca Ashietey-Odunton, Ghana’s foreign ministry said.
The plane landed at 19:25 GMT in Accra where it was met by relatives, government officials and representatives of the Ghana Football Association.