Christian Atsu has been described by a children’s charity for which he was an ambassador as a “wonderful man” whose “legacy will live on through the many hundreds if not thousands of lives he has helped.”
Former Newcastle midfielder Atsu’s death was announced on Saturday by his agent Nana Sechere, who said the player’s body had been found 12 days on from the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria and has claimed more than 44,000 lives.
Ghana international Atsu, who was 31 and counted Chelsea, Everton and Porto among his former clubs, had been playing for Turkish Super Lig side Hatayspor.
A spokesperson for AATC said: “It is with immense pain and disbelief that we have to write these words. We have held onto the hope that Christian would survive and be found in the rubble of the tragic earthquake to hit Turkey and Syria.
“Christian Atsu was a truly unique and wonderful man, and his legacy will live on through the many hundreds if not thousands of lives he has helped. He will live in our memories as one of the kindest, most talented, humble people to enter this world.
“A young boy from poverty in Ghana who followed his dreams had an incredibly successful footballing career and used his talent and platform to help others.
“He never forgot his own roots and didn’t want to see any more children abused, imprisoned, affected by HIV, trafficked or sold. He was determined to use his prominence as a footballer to prevent this. He had also been supporting The Crime Check Foundation in Ghana with their work paying fines for petty crimes which had resulted in incarceration, and helping people reintegrate into society and get back on their feet.
“Whenever Christian visited Senya, the children and the community were always so happy to see him. They would welcome him like a hero, but also like a father, uncle or brother as everyone felt such a close affection for him.
“He greeted everyone with smiles and hugs, making each individual, child and adult, feel important and that they could dream and succeed in life. Christian loved the children and would always throw his shoes off to play barefoot football with them, something he loved to do whenever he visited.
Seth Asiedu, director of one of the homes Atsu supported in Senya Beraku, said: “Our hearts are broken by the news regarding our beloved bro, Christian Atsu.
“We always felt the impact of his presence and were soaked with joy any time he visited us. The happiness he brought to so many will leave a painful void, but we will always remember his kind heart and his beaming, infectious and joyful smile. Thank you Christian, we love you.”