Tributes have been paid to the Ghanaian and former Premier League footballer Christian Atsu, who was found dead under the earthquake rubble of his home in Turkey.
There was a minute’s applause for Atsu on Saturday at St James’ Park before Newcastle United’s game against Liverpool, which his wife and children attended. Atsu spent five years at Newcastle from 2016 to 2021.
There were also periods of applause at other Premier League games on Saturday in his memory.
The 31-year-old, who was playing for Super Lig side Hatayspor, was falsely reported as having been taken to hospital last week.
He had been missing in Antakya since the earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria on 6 February, killing tens of thousands of people.
Nana Sechere tweeted: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce to all well wishers that sadly Christian Atsu’s body was recovered this morning. My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their prayers and support. I ask that whilst we make the necessary arrangements, that everyone would please respect the privacy of the family during this very difficult time.”
Newcastle paid tribute to their former player on Twitter. “We are profoundly saddened to learn that Christian Atsu has tragically lost his life in Turkey’s devastating earthquakes. A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters. Rest in peace, Christian.”
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe told Sky Sports: “We’re treating it as the tragedy that it is, giving him our thoughts and our prayers and to his family as well. We want to support them in this moment.”
Former Newcastle manager Rafael Benítez said he had been in contact with Atsu last month.
He told Sky Sports: “It’s really sad because he was a nice, nice, special person.
“He was a good professional. I don’t talk about if he’s a good player or not, he was a nice lad and a good player, but especially a really nice person.
“So a special person and everybody always, you can see the pictures, always with a smile playing or not playing.”
After spending part of his youth career at Feyenoord’s academy in Ghana, Atsu joined Porto in 2011 before signing for Chelsea two years later for a £3.5m fee. He did not feature for the Blues’ first team and was loaned out to Vitesse, Bournemouth, Everton and Málaga.
Atsu made 75 appearances for the Magpies before joining Saudi Arabia’s Al-Raed and then Hatayspor. On 5 February, Atsu came on as a substitute and scored the winning goal against Kasimpasa, the day before two fatal earthquakes struck south-eastern Turkey.
Away from football, Atsu was an ambassador for Arms Around the Child, a children’s charity based in Ghana, South Africa and India that provides homes, protection, education and support for children.
In a statement, Everton said: “We are deeply saddened by today’s news that Christian Atsu has been found dead following the earthquake in Turkey earlier this month. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues at Hatayspor and everyone affected by this tragic event that has claimed so many lives.”
A Premier League statement said: “We are deeply saddened by the news Christian Atsu lost his life in the devastation of the earthquakes that have hit Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts and condolences are with Christian’s family and friends and everyone affected by this tragic event.”