Body of footballer killed in earthquake flown home ahead of 'befitting' burial

The body of footballer Christian Atsu has been flown home as Ghana plan a ‘befitting’ burial for the former Premier League star.

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Atsu, 31, was found dead on Saturday under his home in southern Turkey. He had been missing since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on February 6.

More than 44,000 people have been killed across south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria as a result of the earthquake.

Atsu, who had spells at Premier League clubs Newcastle United, Chelsea and Everton, was playing for Turkish side Hatayspor.

Atsu made 65 appearances for Ghana and helped the nation reach the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2015.

The former winger was flown back to his native country on Sunday and his coffin was carried by members of Ghana’s armed forces.

Speaking at Kotoka airport, Ghana’s Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said: ‘We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more.

‘Christian was much loved and will be sorely missed. It is a painful loss, a very painful one.’

Mr Bawumia also promised that Atsu would be given a ‘befitting’ burial after his body was accompanied from Turkey by his family and Ghana’s ambassador to Turkey.

Relatives of Atsu met his coffin at Kotoka airport before it was taken to a military hospital morgue ahead of the funeral.

Tributes have poured in for Atsu since his death was confirmed, with Newcastle observing a minute’s silence before their Premier League clash against Liverpool on Saturday.

Atsu spent four years at Chelsea but never featured for the Blues before joining Newcastle in 2017. He made 121 appearances for the Magpies, scoring eight goals.

Meanwhile, the charity Arms Around the Child described their former ambassador Atsu as a ‘unique and wonderful man’ following his tragic death.

 ‘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.’

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