Ghana gives state funeral honours to soccer star Atsu
Players from former Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu's former club attend his funeral at the State House in Accra, Ghana, on March 17, 2023. - Atsu, 31, was caught up in a 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023 killing more than 44,000 people in both countries. (Photo by Nipah Dennis / AFP)

ACCRA, Ghana (AFP)— Ghana gave state funeral honours to former Black Stars and Chelsea player, Christian Atsu, who died in last month's earthquake in Turkey, with a ceremony led by President Nana Akufo-Addo.

Tributes were paid to the former Newcastle winger as he was laid to rest in a coffin draped in Ghana's national colours of red, yellow, green and black with calls to keep alive the legacy of the player who "gave his life to humanity".

At the state-assisted funeral held on the forecourt of Accra's State House, Atsu's widow Marie-Claire Rupio broke down while reading a tribute, saying he left with a part of her.

"You did not go alone for part of me went with you. Your love is still my guide, and though I cannot see you, you are always so full of life," Rupio said.

"You seemed to be immortal. Your smile, your love, I see you in our children’s smile."

Traditional performers were among those paying tribute while former team mates wore black-shirts with images of Atsu on the front. Grieving fans lined up to see his coffin which pay under a white marquee tent.

The 31-year-old footballer was discovered dead on February 18 following the 7.8-magnitude quake that hit southern Turkey and Syria on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people in both countries.

Dignitaries including Ghana’s vice president Mahamudu Bawumia, former president John Mahama, officials from Atsu’s last club Hatayspor in Turkey, the Ghana FA and the general public attended the ceremony.

He will be buried in his hometown of Ada on Ghana's southeast coast.

Beyond the pitch, Atsu was admired and loved for his philanthropic activities including giving scholarships to poor schoolchildren in Ghana and also paying fines for prisoners to gain their freedom.

Atsu previously played for Cheetah FC, Rio Ave, FC Porto, AFC Bournemouth, Everton FC, and Malaga CF. He made 65 appearances for Ghana and played at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea where he was named the best player of the tournament.

Atsu was also a member of Ghana’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Atsu is survived by his wife and three children.

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