The Premier League winger known for his faith was killed in the earthquake in Turkey.
Christian Atsu kicked his last goal on February 5. He ran up to the soccer ball and slammed it with his deft left foot, shooting it past 10 opposing players and a goalie in the fifth minute of extra time. The ball found the back of the net, breaking a 0-0 tie and lifting his team to euphoric victory.
Atsu was a long way from the dirt-and-rock pitches where he learned to play barefoot in Ghana. But through all the changes—from poverty to professional soccer, international fame playing for Ghana, the highs and lows of the British Premier League, and then a new challenge with a team in Antakya, Turkey—he held fast to his faith.
“God’s power has to be manifested in my life for people to see how far he has brought me,” Atsu once told a reporter. “The Bible says it is not by our hard work. … It is not just by my hard work, though I am working hard, but it is the will of God, the grace of God, that has brought me this far.”
The day after he scored the winning goal, February 6, Atsu’s apartment building collapsed in the 7.8 earthquake that reduced the ancient city of Antioch to rubble. He went missing for nearly two weeks. On Saturday, February 18, authorities finally confirmed Atsu was one of the tens of thousands who died in the disaster.
In Newcastle, where Atsu played for four years as a winger and helped the team win promotion to the Premier League, fans applauded him for a full minute before a game on Saturday. Television showed his wife and two young children crying in the stands as 52,000 people in the stadium sung out his name.
“It’s just devastating—he’s 31,” said Johnny Ferguson, Atsu’s pastor at Hillsong Newcastle UK. “One thing …