The football world was shocked on Saturday when news broke that Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu had been found dead in the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed during the massive earthquake that hit southern Turkey on February 6th. Atsu, who was just 31 years old, had been living in the building with Hatayspor’s sporting director Taner Savut when the earthquake struck, and both men had been missing since then.
According to Atsu’s Turkish agent, Murat Uzunmehmet, the footballer’s body was discovered under the rubble of the 12-story Ronesans Rezidans building, along with his phone. Atsu had been scheduled to leave southern Turkey shortly before the earthquake hit but opted to stay with Hatayspor after scoring the winning goal in a Super Lig match on February 5th.
Atsu’s death has been mourned by his former clubs, teammates, and fans around the world. Newcastle United, where he played from 2016 to 2020, paid tribute to him on their official website, describing him as “a talented player and a special person” who would be fondly remembered by everyone associated with the club. Chelsea, where Atsu played from 2013 to 2015, also sent their condolences to his family and friends, as well as to all those affected by the earthquake tragedy.
Atsu was a well-traveled footballer who played for several clubs in Europe and Africa during his career. He began his professional career in Portugal with Porto, where he helped the team win the Primeira Liga title in 2013. He then joined Chelsea later that year but made just two appearances for the London club before being loaned out to several other clubs, including Vitesse, Bournemouth, and Everton.
It was at Newcastle, however, where Atsu enjoyed his most successful spell in English football. He made over 100 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring 10 goals and providing 9 assists. He was also a regular member of the Ghana national team, earning 65 caps and helping the Black Stars reach the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015.
Atsu’s death is a tragic reminder of the human toll of natural disasters like earthquakes. The earthquake that struck southern Turkey on February 6th was one of the most destructive in the country’s history, with more than 45,000 people killed and over 264,000 apartments destroyed. Rescue efforts are ongoing, with many people still missing and feared dead.
Atsu’s death has also raised questions about building safety and construction practices in Turkey. The Ronesans Rezidans building where Atsu lived had 12 stories, which is unusual for the area, and its contractor has been detained by authorities. It remains to be seen whether any legal action will be taken against those responsible for the building’s collapse.
In the meantime, the football community is left to mourn the loss of a talented player and a beloved teammate. Atsu’s death is a reminder that football is just a game, and that the people who play it are just like us: vulnerable to the forces of nature and subject to the same tragedies and hardships that affect us all. Rest in peace, Christian Atsu.