Ghana has given state funeral honours to former Black Stars and Chelsea player, Christian Atsu, who died in last month’s earthquake in Türkiye, with a ceremony led by President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Tributes were paid to the former Newcastle winger with calls to keep alive the legacy of the player who “gave his life to humanity”.
At the state-assisted funeral held on the forecourt of Accra’s State House on Friday, Atsu’s widow Marie-Claire Rupio broke down while reading a tribute, saying he left with a part of her.
“You did not go alone for part of me went with you. Your love is still my guide, and though I cannot see you, you are always so full of life,” Rupio said.
“You seemed to be immortal. Your smile, your love, I see you in our children’s smile.”
Traditional performers were among those paying tribute while former team mates wore black-shirts with images of Atsu on the front. Grieving fans lined up to see his coffin which lay under a white marquee tent.
The 31-year-old footballer was discovered dead on February 18 following the 7.8-magnitude quake that hit southern Türkiye and Syria on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people in both countries.
Ghana’s president was among hundreds of mourners who paid their last respects at the funeral.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, Vice President Maha Mudu Bawumia, former President John Mahama and government ministers all attended the service at State House, the seat of the West African nation’s parliament.
Atsu’s casket was draped in the red, yellow and green flag of Ghana and was carried by soldiers wearing blue dress uniforms with white belts. It was laid on a podium surrounded by white flowers.
He will be buried in his hometown of Ada on Ghana’s southeast coast.
Beyond the pitch, Atsu was admired and loved for his philanthropic activities including giving scholarships to poor schoolchildren in Ghana and also paying fines for prisoners to gain their freedom.
Atsu previously played for Cheetah FC, Rio Ave, FC Porto, AFC Bournemouth, Everton FC, and Malaga CF.
He made 65 appearances for Ghana and played at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea where he was named the best player of the tournament.
Atsu was also a member of Ghana’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He is survived by his wife and three children.