Christian Atsu was a Ghanaian footballer who won hearts across the world before his death in a devastating earthquake in Turkey. Atsu was a talented and skilled player who was loved by many fans. He was known for his ability to score goals and his passion for the game. Atsu was a role model for many African young players and was an inspiration to many. He will be sadly missed by all those who knew him.
Atsu, a Ghanaian score player, died in the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey earlier this month. Atsu’s coffin was draped in the Ghanaian flag and arrived in the capital city, Accra, on Sunday. Atsu’s family and friends were there to receive his body, and he was given military honours.
The 31-year-old athlete was discovered following the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit southern Turkey and Syria. The quake killed more than 46,000 people in both countries, and Turk was one of the many victims. He was a talented athlete who had a bright future ahead of him, but unfortunately, he perished in the tragedy.
Christian Atsu’s humble beginnings
Atsu was born in Ada Foah in the Greater Accra region of Ghana on January 10, 1992, to an impoverished family – one of ten children of his late father, who provided for his family by fishing and farming near the Volta river.
Atsu trained at the Feyenoord football academy, opened by the Dutch team in Ghana, and caught the eye of a scout from the Portuguese club Porto. By the age of 17, Atsu was transferred to the Portuguese giant. It was the beginning of his successful professional career.
Playing for Porto in the 2012-2013 season, Atsu took his place in the starting 11 in nine games. That season, Porto became the league champion for the third time. He made 17 appearances for Porto.
He also won 65 caps for the Ghana national team – the Black Stars – and helped them reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final, where they lost to Ivory Coast on penalties.
The Africa Cup appearance was one of his most dazzling on-field performances, as he won the Player of the Tournament and Goal of the Tournament awards, which also brought him comparisons with Argentine great Lionel Messi. He last played for the national team in 2019.
He was loaned to Rio after two years at Porto. The Ghanaian player scored six goals in 27 games for Rio Ave and made his way to England in 2013. In September 2013, he signed a five-year contract with the top Premier League club Chelsea for €3.5 million.
In the 2013-14 season, Chelsea loaned him to Dutch Club SBV Vitesse, for whom he played 28 games and scored five goals. The team finished the league in 6th place and made it to the European play-off tour.
On loan to Premier League club Everton in 2014, Bournemouth in 2015, and Malaga and Newcastle United in 2016, the star player signed a four-year contract with Newcastle United in May 2017 for a transfer fee of €6.2 million.
He played for the Saudi league team Al Raed in the 2021-2022 season and came to Türkiye the Hatayspor jersey for 2022-23. It was to be his last action.
A footballer, philanthropist, and family man, the African star will stay alive in the hearts of countless people whose lives he touched in different ways.
Christian Atsu’s last on-field action was as stunning as his footballing career – a 90th-minute free-kick goal for his club Hatayspor in a thrilling 1-0 win over Kasimpasa in the Turkish Super Lig on February 5.
On February 18, his body was recovered from under the rubble of a building that collapsed in the February 6 twin earthquakes that devastated 11 provinces in southern and southeastern Türkiye and adjoining Syria and killed more than 47,000 people in the two countries.
But Atsu – he was just 31 – will be remembered as much as a devout humanist, loving husband, father, and philanthropist, as he will be remembered as a natural football talent from Ghana who rose out of poverty and inequalities to make the world his playground.
One of the most profound tributes to Atsu came from popular Nigerian comedian and actor Emmanuel Ogonna Iwueke – famous as Dr. Craze – who said that the footballer paid for his education after the death of his father. “When I lost my dad, he reached out and offered to pay my fees til I graduated, and he did…(sic),” the 31-year-old comic tweeted.
His coffin, covered in Ghana’s national flag, was received at the Accra airport by the African country’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and given a guard of honour by the army.
Atsu was married to German writer Marie-Claire Rupio with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
Photos Atsu posted on social media showing him playing with his children endeared him to his fans as a symbol of the loving family man.
Off the pitch Christian Atsu had made a name for himself as a philanthropist, donating time and money on a regular basis to organisations in Ghana and the UK.
He partnered with global children’s charity Arms Around The Child in 2016, providing funds to construct a new school in Senya Beraku, 84 km west of Accra.
“He never forgot his own roots and didn’t want to see any more children abused, imprisoned, affected by HIV, trafficked or sold,” said Arms Around The Child in a statement, adding that he was determined to use his prominence as a footballer to prevent abuse.
Through the Accra-based Crime Check Foundation, Atsu ensured the release and reintegration of over 150 imprisoned petty offenders by paying their respective fines and providing capital for hundreds of others.
“It isn’t just about releasing prisoners, he also paid the medical bills of hundreds of individuals who are not prisoners,” Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, the executive director of Crime Check, told local media. “He paid the fees of many students across the country. Atsu typified humanity and humility. We’ve lost a monumental figure.”
Many Ghanaians were surprised to learn that Atsu’s benevolence extended beyond Ghana. Popular Nigerian skit maker Dr. Craze said Atsu paid his school fees in full after his father’s death.
While the beneficiaries of Atsu’s benevolence, Ghanaians and millions of football lovers across the world continue to mourn him and reflect on his legacy, discussions have started on how to immortalise his memory in Ghana.
There are plans to build a statue in his memory in his hometown, Ada Foah, in the Greater Accra region.
Fans of Atsu’s former club Newcastle United have so far raised £2,500 (GH¢38,500) from a fundraiser they started this week to complete the school building project at Senya Beraku.
Atsu is survived by his widow and two children. The family says they are in talks with the government to fix an appropriate date for the burial. A funeral ceremony is slated to possibly be held in Accra while he will be buried in his village where another ceremony will be held.
His Junior career
2011-2012 Rio Ave
2013-2014 Vitesse (on loan)
2014-2015 Everton (on loan)
2015-2016 Bournemouth (on loan)
2016 Malaga (on loan)
2016-2017 Newcastle United (on loan)
2017-2021 Newcastle United