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Christian Atsu: The prodigy whose death shook the football world and beyond


By: Emmanuel Adu-Gyamfi
Twitter: @iam_adugyamfi

Ghanaian football fans and the world at large would not easily forget February 18, 2023, in a hurry. It was the day Ghanaian international footballer Christian Atsu’s body was discovered in the rubble, following the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6. Few hours before the quake, Atsu had scored a last-minute winner for his club side Hatayspor in their home game against Turkish Super Lig rivals Kasimpasa. That victory saw some members of the team and their fans party late into the night. Not long after Atsu returned to his luxurious 12-storey 250 apartment Renaissance Residence, disaster struck, with a 7.8-magnitude earthquake reducing the ancient city of Antioch to rubble and leaving several thousand people dead.

A day later, there were reports Atsu had been rescued and taken to a hospital. That report unfortunately turned out to be untrue, breaking the hearts of several well-wishers from across the world. Christian Atsu Twasam was not just a talented footballer; he was also an advocate for the vulnerable. But one thing that remained constant among all the other life-altering events was his faith in God. He prayed to win and be successful and also believed God should be praised at all times and in all circumstances. Atsu was a devout Christian who shared Bible lessons on social media and also laid out his vision for his humanitarian works.

Encouraged by the love for God and the memory of his father’s charge to better humanity, Atsu became an ambassador for global children’s charity Arms Around The Child (AATC) in 2016. The charity organisation supports disadvantaged children. He has helped raise funds to help build them a school for orphans in Ghana. Since 2017, Atsu’s partnership with Crime Check Foundation (CCF) has been well documented. Atsu paid for the release of several hundreds of prisoners, catered for the bills of patients in hospitals, provided capital for hundreds of people to start petty trading, and settled the school fees of several others. When his philanthropic works attracted media attention, British reporters suggested he was generous because of his personal experience with poverty. However, Atsu corrected them and said he was only motivated by his Christian faith.

Atsu, a native of Ada Foah in the Greater Accra Region, believes his faith in God is what kept him going. He widely shared his humble beginnings. He once shared a cramped bedroom with his mother and twin sister after his father died in tragic circumstances in 2004. Determined to improve the life of his family, Atsu went from sleeping in uncompleted buildings to playing barefooted as his widowed mother could not afford football boots nor could she rent a decent shelter for the family. Young Atsu had to give up his education after it became difficult for his mother to afford school fees. Atsu found an interest in football, but then there was another problem. He mostly jogged from Madina to Achimota when he didn’t have money for transportation.

However, luck smiled on him when he was spotted by Feyenoord Academy. In 2009, he had his breakthrough with Portuguese giants FC Porto. His journey in Europe has been tremendous. In 2013, he was signed by Chelsea for £3.5 million. He also played for English Premier League sides Everton, Bournemouth, and Newcastle United. His stay in Turkey was brief. He joined Hatayspor in September 2022 on an initial one-year deal. He played just three games and scored only one goal, which happened a few hours before his passing.

A full international with 65 appearances from 2012 to 2019, Atsu represented Ghana at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. Atsu won Player of the Tournament and Goal of the Tournament for his magnificent strike in Ghana’s 3-0 win over Guinea at the quarterfinal stage, as Ghana finished as silver medalists in Equatorial Guinea 2015. Atsu may have died and gone, but his legacy lives on. The young man lived a good life and has impacted lives tremendously and given hope to the hopeless even beyond the boundaries of football. When football made Atsu rich, he not only changed the lives of his family members but also several hundred other people he did not even know. This is the result of the huge number of tributes shared widely after his death was confirmed.

Single-handedly, Atsu has championed the tabling of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill in Parliament. The bill, if passed by Parliament, will enable actors who deliver justice, such as judges, to punish petty offenders by making them pay a fine or perform community service. The state may have assisted in the burial and funeral rites of Christian Atsu, but the passage of the bill will truly honour the memory of the young man who died serving humanity.

Rest In Perfect Peace hero
God be with you till we meet again

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