The body of former Chelsea and Newcastle player Christian Atsu is being flown home to Ghana.
Atsu was found dead on Saturday following the devastating earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria.
In a statement released on Sunday morning, Ghana’s foreign ministry said: ‘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.’
The ministry confirmed that Atsu’s brother and sister were present when his body was recovered.
The 31-year-old had been missing since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took place in the early hours of the morning of February 6 – but one of his agents confirmed on Saturday that Atsu’s body had been discovered under the rubble.
Christian Atsu, 31, has been found dead following the devastating earthquake in Turkey
The Ghana international’s whereabouts were unknown following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Murat Uzunmehmet revealed the devastating news of Atsu’s death – 12 days after the disaster struck, telling reporters on Saturday: ‘Atsu’s lifeless body was found under the rubble. Currently, more items are still being taken out. His phone was also found.’
Another of Atsu’s agents – Nana Sechere – also announced the news.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Relatives of Atsu waited to receive news as search and rescue operations in Turkey took place
Atsu’s club Hatayspor called him ‘a beautiful person’, saying there were ‘no words to describe our sadness’.
‘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,’ they said on Twitter – as they blacked out their profile picture.
‘We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness. Rest in peace.
Atsu’s former club Everton were among the first Premier League sides to pay tribute.
‘We are deeply saddened by today’s news that Christian Atsu has been found dead following the earthquake in Turkey earlier this month,’ they said.
‘Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues at Hatayspor and everyone affected by this tragic event that has claimed so many lives.’
Atsu enjoyed an extremely impressive career and featured for Newcastle and Chelsea
Newcastle United – where Atsu spent four years of his career – said Atsu would be ‘fondly remembered’ by everyone at the club.
‘We are profoundly saddened to learn that Christian Atsu has tragically lost his life in Turkey’s devastating earthquakes,’ they said on social media.
‘A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters. Rest in peace, Christian.’
Atsu’s wife and children were at St James’ Park on Saturday for Newcastle’s game against Liverpool.
Newcastle paid tribute to their former player Atsu before their game against Liverpool
Newcastle paid tribute to Atsu before the game with a minute’s silence.
Eddie Howe said: ‘It’s a real tragedy for Christian and his family.
‘I woke up to the news and I was truly devastated. A lot of players in our dressing room played with him – I made reference to that in my pre-match chat with the players.’
Allan Saint-Maximin recalled a story of how Atsu welcomed him to the club when he first joined Newcastle.
He said: ‘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 everyday. 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.’
Chelsea – Atsu’s first Premier League club – said: ‘Everyone at Chelsea Football Club is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of our former player, Christian Atsu. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.’
Former Chelsea captain John Terry paid tribute to Atsu, writing: ‘RIP my friend’.
There were hopes the former winger had been rescued after the disaster first unfolded, but Hatayspor and agent Sechere had revealed over the past week that these claims were untrue.
Several search and rescue operations in the debris of the building where Atsu and Hatayspor’s sporting director Taner Savut lived, took place – with Savut also missing.
Atsu had been in Turkey since he joined Hatayspor in Septmber last year after leaving Al-Raed
Born: January 10, 1992, Ada Foah, Ghana
Rio Ave (loan): 2011-2012
Vitesse (loan): 2013-14
Everton (loan): 2014-15
Bournemouth (loan): 2015-16
Malaga (loan): 2016
Newcastle (loan): 2016-17
Newcastle (permanent): 2017-2021
Sechere explained on Tuesday how Atsu’s exact ‘room location’ and even two pairs of his shoes had been located.
More than 42,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured in the earthquake, while millions have been left homeless.
Tremors from the deadly quake – which lasted about a minute and could be Turkey’s largest ever – were felt as far away as Egypt, Lebanon and the island of Cyprus.
Atsu had been scheduled to fly out of southern Turkey hours before the quake, but Hatayspor’s manager said on Friday the Ghanaian opted to stay with the club after scoring the game-winning goal in a Super Lig match on February 5.
Atsu enjoyed an extremely impressive football career after he broke through with Portuguese giants Porto.
His exploits in Portugal – which also included a loan spell at Rio Ave – led to Atsu earning a move to Chelsea.
He spent five years at Stamford Bridge but never actually made an appearance for the first team as he spent temporary spells away from the club with Vitesse Arnhem, Everton, Bournemouth, Malaga and Newcastle, before he made a permanent move to the Magpies in 2016.
He was promoted to the Premier League with the club during the 2016-17 season under Rafa Benitez and he made 121 appearances in total over five years.
The 31-year-old moved to Portugal aged 17 to pursue his dream after growing up in Ghana
Upon leaving Newcastle, he moved to Saudi Arabia to play for Al-Raed, before he joined Hatayspor last September.
Atsu also had a decorated international career, winning 65 caps for Ghana and scoring nine goals, while he also represented them at the 2014 World Cup.
He was awarded Player of the Tournament at the 2015 AFCON when the Black Stars came runners-up.
After growing up in Ghana, Atsu had moved to Portugal to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer at the age of just 17.
Atsu was a devout Christian and married his wife Marie-Claire Rupio Atsu in 2012. The couple had three children together – two sons and a daughter.