The mortal remains of Ghana’s Turkey-based attacking midfielder, Christian Atsu Twasam, arrived at the Kotoka International Airport last night on board Turkish Airlines flight number TK 629 – and received by the military amid inconsolable tears from relatives and sympathisers.
Emotive scenes of wailing, tears, pain, agony and distress encapsulated the arrival of the player’s motionless body in a casket draped in national colours after 7p.m.
The 31-year-old Atsu, who plied his trade in Turkey for Hatayspor, a Turkish Super Lig club based in the south-eastern city of Hatay, was caught up in the horrendous 7.8-magnitude Turkey/Syria earthquake that has so far claimed more than 46,000 lives.
Hopes of finding him alive evaporated into thin air of agony, ache and tears on Saturday morning, as his rescuers saw him dead, 12 days after the tragic earthquake.
News of the exciting player’s death spread like wildfire – sparking grief and sorrow in Ghana and throughout the global football community.
At the airport to receive the body yesterday were the Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, relatives of the player, government officials, members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the Turkish Embassy officials, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) President Kurt Okraku, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mustapha Yusif, Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, among others.
Christian and Moslem prayers were said for the repose of his soul.
Scores of football fans who made their way to the airport to welcome their hero home wept openly as they saw the motor hearse that conveyed the player’s motionless body away – emotionally and frantically waving to bid him goodbye.
The siblings and other relatives of Atsu, as well as close friends also remained inconsolable on seeing the casket.
Sources say the body was being taken to Ada Foah, his native home in the Greater Accra Region – and in the southeast coast of the country, where the funeral may be held.
Others assert that the body would be sent to an undisclosed morgue in Accra for preservation ahead of a proposed state funeral.
On Sunday, February 5, this year, a few hours before the earthquake struck, Atsu, nicknamed ‘African Messi’ for his flair, dexterity and skill, cracked home a majestic game-winning goal against Kasimpaşa.
That picturesque free-kick lifted his Turkish club from the lower rungs of the league log – and it may be his joyous but sad way of bidding the game farewell.
Atsu played for various European clubs topflight sides, including Chelsea, FC Porto, Newcastle United, Everton and Bournemouth.
He made 65 appearances for Ghana, scoring 10 goals and providing nine assists.
He was voted Best Player of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
BY JOHN VIGAH