Ghana’s President among mourners at the funeral of soccer player Christian Atsu

ACCRA, Ghana — Ghana’s president was among hundreds of mourners on Friday who paid their last respects at the funeral of Christian Atsu, the soccer player who died in Turkey’s earthquake last month.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, former President John Mahama and government ministers all attended the service at the State House, the seat of the West African nation’s parliament.

Atsu’s coffin was draped with the red, yellow and green flag of Ghana and was carried by soldiers wearing blue dress uniforms with white belts. It was placed on a pedestal surrounded by white flowers.

Atsu’s widow, Marie Claire Rupio, began reading a tribute to the former Premier League player but burst into tears and delivered the speech to Atsu’s sister to end it.

“In life I loved you, in death I do the same. It breaks my heart to lose you,” read her tribute. “You didn’t go alone. A part of you in me went with you. Your love is still my guide though I can’t see you. Your smile, your love, I see in my children’s smiles.”

Atsu, who was 31, had three children with Rupio. They also attended her father’s funeral.

PHOTOS: Ghana’s President among mourners at Christian Atsu’s funeral

Atsu’s remains were recovered from a collapsed apartment building in the Turkish city of Antakya on February 18, nearly two weeks after the devastating earthquake struck southern Turkey. More than 52,000 people died in Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Atsu had joined Antakya-based soccer club Hatayspor late last year and scored the winning goal for his new team in a league game at home on February 5, just hours before the earthquake struck in the early hours of February 6.

He has played more than 60 times for Ghana’s national team and scored a goal on his debut in 2012 as a 20-year-old. He was part of the Ghana squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and scored one goal two goals at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to guide Ghana to the final, where they lost to Ivory Coast on penalties.

At this Africa Cup of Nations he was named player of the tournament.

Atsu had stints at Premier League clubs Chelsea and Newcastle and while his football career was a success, he was also remembered for his charity work at his funeral. Atsu was involved with numerous charities in Ghana, including one that helped ex-prisoners find work and get their lives back on track after serving their sentences. He was also a major donor and a regular visitor to an orphanage.

“The departure of a patriot full of wisdom, humility and caring is very painful,” said Ghana’s Sports Minister Mustapha Yussif at the funeral. “The grievous loss of Atsu has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the minds and hearts of compatriots, friends, family and (the) nation.

“At the peak of his career, Atsu remained himself and did not let pride, arrogance and indiscipline overcome him.”

Atsu is buried in his hometown of Ada Foah on the south coast of Ghana.

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