The Kotoka International Airport in Accra, was enveloped in an atmosphere of intense grief during Sunday’s harmattan-evening when the remains of Ghanaian professional footballer, Christian Atsu Twasam, arrived in the country from Turkey where he did not survive an earthquake that has killed over 40,000.
The casket in which Atsu’s body lay was wrapped in a huge Ghana flag and was received by the Ghana Armed Forces in a state protocol ceremony as directed by President Akufo-Addo in honour of the fallen national hero.
The President himself was out of the country when the remains of Atsu arrived and was therefore represented by Vice President Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia.
Also at the airport to receive the casket and its contents were Atsu’s family members, government officials, the Turkish Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs. Ozlem Ergün Uluesen, the Ghana Football Association and some leading members of the sports fraternity, members of the Ghana Supporters Union and a heavy media presence.
The tragic death of Atsu, aged 31, was received with shock in Ghana and beyond and messages of condolence have flooded the internet.
When news broke in Ghana that Atsu was in his apartment in Turkey when the building and its environs got struck by a 7.8-magnitude earth quake hopes were high that he would be found and alive.
As hours turned to days and Atsu was still missing, frustrations set in and almost everyone resorted to prayers for his safety and well being.
Then there were conflicting reports or not he had been found but Ghanaian continued to pray in hope he would return home alive.
12 days after the quake, Atsu was found dead trapped in the rubble and the prayers of hope turned into tears of grief when his death was officially communicated in a statement released by the Ghana Government.
Until his death, the Black Stars player was playing for Hatayaspor in the Turkish topflight. His last match for Hatayaspor was on the eve of the earthquake which is believed to have killed him.
Christian Atsu Twasam is survived by a wife and three young children.
President Akufo-Addo, on behalf of the Ghanaian people has written to express condolences to the widow, children and family of the late Atsu
The President said Ghana football has lost one of its finest personnel and ambassadors and Atsu who will be sorely missed will be difficult to replace.
“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away… Job 1:21
“On behalf of the Government and people of Ghana, I extend sincere, heartfelt condolences to the widow, children and family of our fellow Ghanaian, Christian Atsu, on the sad news of his death. Ghana football has lost one of its finest personnel and ambassadors, one who will be difficult to replace. He will be sorely missed.
“May his soul rest in the Bosom of the Almighty until the Last Day of the Resurrection when we shall all meet again. Amen!” Nana Akufo-Addo posted on Facebook.
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia for his part posted “In a nervous state, we were hoping for the best of news. Now, we are a nation in grief, following news of the tragic demise of our illustrious son, Christian Atsu. “My deepest condolences to his widow, family and friends. “Rest in peace, Christian”
Former President John Mahama also wrote on Facebook: “RIP Christian Atsu! We all held our breaths, and we prayed as we heard the miracles of people pulled out of the rubble. We prayed that ours would be one of those miracles, too. Alas, it was not to be. But in all, we give thanks to the almighty God for giving Atsu to us even for the short 31 years of his life.
“At this time, Lordina and I extend our deepest condolences to his family and the football fraternity in Ghana and across the globe.”
Similar messages have poured in from countries across the world, especially from the football fraternity.