Christian Atsu, Professional Soccer Player, Is Found Dead in Turkey After Quake
The body of Christian Atsu, a professional soccer player from Ghana whose career took him to England’s Premier League and the World Cup, has been recovered from the rubble in southern Turkey nearly two weeks after a powerful earthquake struck the country, his club and his agent said on Saturday. He was 31.
“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,” Nana Sechere, Mr. Atsu’s agent, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.”
Mr. Sechere said Mr. Atsu had been found in Hatay Province in southern Turkey, one of the hardest-hit areas in the earthquake.
Mr. Atsu, who played for the Turkish club Hatayspor, had been among the thousands of people missing since Feb. 6, when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. Just hours before the quake, he had scored his team’s winning goal in its match against Kasimpasa, a team from Istanbul.
His club also confirmed the news and said he was being repatriated to Ghana.
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person,” Hatayspor said in a statement on Twitter on Saturday.
There had been conflicting accounts of Mr. Atsu’s whereabouts after the earthquake, and earlier statements that he had been rescued had initially raised hopes that he had survived the earthquake.
Mr. Atsu, a member of Ghana’s World Cup team in 2014, had spent the bulk of his career with European clubs, and signed with Porto, Chelsea and Newcastle United. He joined Hatayspor last year.
Condolences poured in on Saturday on social media, including from Newcastle United, the Premier League and FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. The Ghana Football Association said that weekend games would hold a moment of silence for Mr. Atsu.
“Ghana football has lost one of its finest personnel and ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace,” President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana said on Twitter.
As the club desperately searched for Mr. Atsu after the earthquake, Volkan Demirel, Hatayspor’s manager, had pleaded for aid.
“I thought the day of judgment had come. I immediately thought of my players,” Mr. Demirel told Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, about the moment the earthquake hit.
“May God not cause such pain to anyone,” he added.
More than 45,000 people have died in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, according to figures from the Turkish authorities and from the United Nations, and the death toll was expected to continue to rise.