Newcastle paid an emotional tribute to Christian Atsu as his tearful wife and children joined a minute’s applause for the former Ghana midfielder after his death in the earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria.Ex-Newcastle star Atsu was caught in the 7.8-magnitude quake which killed more than 43,000 people on February 6.
There were initial reports the 31-year-old had been rescued a day after the quake.
But Atsu’s manager in Turkey, Murat Uzunmehmet, said on Saturday the player’s body had been found under the rubble of luxury flats that crumbled in the Turkish southern province of Hatay.
Atsu’s wife Marie-Claire Rupio and his three children were in the stands at St James’ Park on Saturday to join the tribute to the Ghanian before Newcastle’s Premier League match against Liverpool.
With Atsu’s face displayed on the video scoreboard and fans chanting “you’ll never walk alone,” Rupio wiped away tears during a moving minute’s applause from the 52,000 capacity crowd as one fan held up a Newcastle shirt bearing the star’s name.
Atsu spent four years with Newcastle from 2017 to 2021 and also had spells with Premier League club Chelsea and Porto, where he met his wife in Portugal in 2012.
He scored the last of his 33 career goals for Hatayspor in Turkey’s Super Lig on February 5, hours before the quake struck.
Newcastle forward Allan Saint-Maximin paid tribute to former team-mate, saying, “I’m not going to lie, I’d never seen a guy like that before when I arrived at Newcastle.
“Even if we played the same position, he was always giving me advice, always. He was a very nice guy, always joking and smiling, when he played or didn’t play.
“He was a great person, so that’s why it’s sad for me.”
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe added, “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.”