The remains of former Ghana international footballer Christian Atsu who died in a devastating earthquake in Turkey were being flown home on Sunday, the country’s foreign ministry said.
Atsu, 31, was caught up in a 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, killing more than 44,000 people in both countries.
There were initial reports the former Chelsea and Newcastle player had been rescued a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false and his body was found on Saturday.
“The remains will be accompanied by his family and Ghana’s ambassador to Turkey on a Turkish airlines flight and will arrive in Accra (Ghana’s capital) at 7:40 p.m. Sunday,” the foreign ministry said.
On Saturday, the ministry said that Atsu’s older brother and twin sister were present at the site of the rescue when his body was recovered.
His widow Marie-Claire Rupio and their three children were in the stands at St James’ Park on Saturday to join in a tribute to the player before Newcastle’s Premier League match against Liverpool.
Atsu scored the last of his 33 career goals for Hatayspor in Turkey’s Super Lig on February 5, hours before the quake struck.
“There are no words to describe our sadness,” tweeted his Turkish top-flight club in homage to him.
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person.”
He previously played for his national team the Black Stars and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said “football has lost one of its finest ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace”.