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Meet former Ghanaian professional footballer, Christian Atsu

Wed, 8 Mar 2023 Source: Ras Tbc Ofoe

Christian Atsu Twasam (10 January 1992 – c. 18 February 2023) was a Ghanaian professional footballer who primarily played as a winger, although he was also deployed as an attacking midfielder or left back.

Atsu was born at Ada in Greater Accra Region of Ghana. He spent some of his education at the then Feyenoord Football Academy at Gomoa Fetteh, in the Central Region of Ghana which has now been changed to West African Football Academy at Sogakope, in the Volta Region of Ghana. He later moved to join Cheetah FC, a club based in Kasoa.

Atsu was a devout Christian who shared Bible verses on social media. Described by Guardian obituary writer Louise Taylor as "a true Christian in every sense of the word", he was active in charity, being an ambassador for Arms Around the Child, an organisation supporting disadvantaged children; he also paid thousands of pounds of bail money to free Ghanaians who had been jailed for stealing food.

He was one of ten siblings, including his twin sister, while his father was a fisherman and farmer on the banks of the Volta River. Atsu was married to author Marie-Claire Rupio with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Atsu began his career with Porto, also spending a season on loan at Rio Ave. He arrived at Porto at the age of 17. On 14 May 2011, he was called up by first-team manager André Villas-Boas for a Primeira Liga match against Marítimo, but he did not leave the bench.

As with teammate Kelvin, Atsu was sent on loan to fellow league side Rio Ave for the 2011–12 season. He made his debut in the competition on 28 August 2011, in a 0–1 home loss against Olhanense. On 16 December 2011, Atsu opened the score at Estádio da Luz against Benfica in the 24th minute, but the hosts eventually won it 5–1.

He returned to Porto for the 2012–13 campaign, starting in nine of his league appearances as they won the national championship for the third consecutive time.

On 1 September 2013, Atsu agreed to join Chelsea on a five-year contract, for a reported £3.5 million, being immediately loaned to Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, for the rest of the 2013–14 season.

On 6 October 2013, Atsu made his debut against Feyenoord as a substitute, replacing Kazaishvili in the 77th minute. He went on to providing an assist to Mike Havenaar, but it was not enough to prevent a 2–1 loss for Vitesse. On 19 October, Atsu made his first start against SC Heerenveen, which ended in a 3–2 win for Vitesse. On 9 November, he converted a penalty for his first goal with Vitesse, against FC Utrecht; the match ended in a 3–1 win for Vitesse.

In total, Atsu played 30 games and scored 5 goals for the Dutch side as they finished 6th in the league and qualified to the playoffs.

Atsu won his first senior cap for the Ghana national team on 1 June 2012 against Lesotho, scoring in the process. He was described by the BBC as an "excellent prospect", whilst ESPN added he was "quick and technically impressive", and a potential future star for his national team.

The following year, he was in the Ghanaian squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. He started the first match, a 2–2 draw against the DR Congo, and was a substitute in the following 1–0 win over Mali. He returned to the starting line-up in the last group match against Niger in Port Elizabeth, scoring the second goal of a 3–0 win which put his country into the quarter-finals as group winners. Atsu featured in the rest of Ghana's matches as they came fourth, scoring in their penalty shootout elimination by Burkina Faso.

On 13th August 2014, Atsu joined fellow Premier League club Everton on loan until the end of the 2014–15 season. He made his first appearance for the club 10 days later, coming on as an 85th-minute substitute for Kevin Mirallas in a 2–2 draw with Arsenal at Goodison Park.

Atsu made his first start in the league on 21 September 2014 against Crystal Palace, which ended in a 2–3 home loss. After his absence due to the Africa Cup of Nations, he returned to the line-up on 19 February 2015 in a Europa League match against BSC Young Boys, playing out the last five minutes after replacing hat-trick scorer Romelu Lukaku and came off the bench three days later to set up a late equaliser in a 2–2 draw at home to Leicester City.

On 15 March 2015, in the match against Newcastle United, he came off the bench with five minutes remaining, and provided an assist to fellow substitute Ross Barkley for Everton's third goal of a 3–0 home victory. Following Atsu's impact as a substitute in the above games, he was picked to start the second leg of a Europa League Round of 16 match away to Dynamo Kyiv on 19 March with regular right-winger Aaron Lennon cup-tied, with Everton leading 2–1 from the first leg. His team were eliminated after losing 5–2 on the night, he was withdrawn in the 65th minute, and that was his final first-team appearance for Everton.

Atsu was selected for the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, starting in all the matches as Ghana were eliminated in the group stage.

On 29 May 2015, Atsu was loaned to newly promoted Premier League team Bournemouth for the upcoming season, with club Chief Executive Neill Blake calling the deal "a huge coup". He made his debut on 25 August in the second round of the League Cup, starting in a 4–0 win at Hartlepool United. Atsu's only other appearance was in the next round's victory at Preston North End; he did not feature in any Bournemouth matchday squad in the league and he was recalled from his loan by Chelsea on 1 January 2016.

At the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Atsu scored twice in a 3–0 win over Guinea in the quarter-finals. He helped the team to the final, where they lost in a penalty shootout against the Ivory Coast. At the end of the tournament, he was awarded with both the Player of the Tournament award, as well as the Goal of the Tournament award for his strike against Guinea.

On 24 January 2016, Atsu gave an interview with the BBC World Service in which he spoke about leaving Chelsea and his imminent transfer to Levante. The next day, it was confirmed that he would be instead moving to Málaga on loan. On 5 February 2016, Atsu made his debut in the starting eleven and scored in a 3–0 victory over Getafe CF.

On 31st August 2016, Atsu joined Newcastle United on a one-year loan deal with an option to buy clause in the contract. On 13th September, his debut for the club came on as a substitute for Yoan Gouffran in the 61st minute in a 6–0 away victory against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, where he provided the assist to Aleksandar Mitrović to earn their fifth goal. Atsu scored his first goal for the club in a 1–0 win against Rotherham United on 1 October, followed by further goals against Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic.

In May 2017, Atsu signed a four-year deal to join Newcastle permanently for £6.2 million from Chelsea. He was released at its conclusion.

Atsu was also named in the Team of the Tournament for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, where Ghana came fourth. He was called up for the 2019 edition in Egypt.

On 17 July 2021, Atsu joined Al-Raed. Limited by injury, he played only eight games in the Saudi Professional League.

On 6 September 2022, Atsu signed for Süper Lig club Hatayspor on an inital one-year contract with the option for a further year. He played three league games and one in the Turkish Cup, and scored the only goal at home to Kasımpaşa in the seventh minute of added time on 5 February 2023, the day before the earthquake that killed him.

On 6 February 2023, Atsu went missing in the immediate aftermath of the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake; he was feared to be among those trapped under the rubble of Hatayspor's headquarters in Antakya following the quake. The following day, club vice-president Mustafa Özat said Atsu had been rescued and was recovering in hospital, while on 8 February manager Volkan Demirel said that Atsu and sporting director Taner Savut were still missing. On 14 February, Atsu's agent confirmed two pairs of his shoes had been found, but that Atsu himself had still not been found.

On 18 February, confirmation was received by his agent that his body was recovered from the rubble of the building he was residing in. News outlets reported his death at approximately 6 a.m. GMT.

Christian Atsu’s manager, Nana Sechere writes … “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”

Atsu's former club, Newcastle United, paid tribute to him at their game against Liverpool on 18 February. Prior to the start of the game, a minute of applause was held before the start of the game. Atsu's widow and their children were in attendance. The tribute was also made at other Premier League games that occurred over the weekend.

A full international with 65 caps (10 goals) from 2012 to 2019, Atsu represented Ghana at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. He helped the team finish as runners-up at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, in which he also won Player of the Tournament and Goal of the Tournament.

Source: Ras Tbc Ofoe