Ghana held a state funeral for soccer legend Christian Atsu in Accra on Friday (March 17th). Atsu, who played for the Turkish club Hatayspor, passed away last month after massive earthquakes rocked Turkey. (Those earthquakes, which began on February 6, have killed more than 50,000 people.)
The ceremony was presided over by Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo, who joined the soccer star's friends, family, fans, and colleagues to send off Atsu. During the ceremony, the coffin was draped in Ghana's flag's colors and placed under a white tent.
During the ceremony, Atsu's widow Marie-Claire Rupio tearfully shared her last respects to the Ghanaian hero.
"In life, I loved you, in death, I do the same. It breaks my heart to lose you. You did not go alone. Part of you in me left with you. Your love is still my guide, though I cannot see you. Your smile, your love, I see in my children’s smile... You did not leave alone—a part of me went with you. Your love continues to guide me... You seemed immortal. Your smile, your love, I see you in the smile of our children."
After weeks of searching, Atsu's remains were recovered near the destroyed building where he lived in Antakya, Turkey on February 18.
Atsu—who was 31 at the time of his death and who had just joined the club last year—began his career in 2011 and quickly became known as one of the Black Stars' best players, adopting the name "Ghanaian Messi." He went on to play for several European clubs, including Chelsea, Newcastle United, Al-Raed, and Hatayspor, among others.
During his career, Atsu represented the Ghana national football team and garnered over 60 caps and 10 scored goals. At the height of his career, Atsu also participated in several international tournaments with Ghana, including the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup. The celebrated Ghanaian sportsman was known for his well-times space, his ability to dribble strategically, and the way he created scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Atsu leaves behind his widow and three children.