Authorities have confirmed that soccer star and vocal believer Christian Atsu died in the February 6 earthquake in Antioch. He was 31.
Atsu was a professional soccer player from Ghana. On February 5, he scored a winning free-kick goal for his team, the Turkish club Hatayspor.
The next day his apartment building collapsed in the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria earlier this month. He was initially declared missing, but last week, officials confirmed Atsu was one of the tens of thousands who died in the quake, Christianity Today reports.
“It’s just devastating—he’s 31,” Johnny Ferguson, Atsu’s pastor at Hillsong Newcastle UK, said, according to The Atlantic. “One thing I remember Christian being really passionate about was politics in Ghana. He had a real vision to do some good and give back to his community.”
Atsu and his twin sister, Christiana, were born on January 10, 1992, in Ghana. Their father died in 2004, leaving the family of 10 children and Atsu’s mother behind.
Atsu publicly said he blamed himself for his father’s death, saying if he had been working instead of attending a soccer academy, he may have been able to help pay for life-saving medical treatments for his father.
But Atsu’s father told him before he died to worship God through his talents. For Atsu, that was soccer.
“Jesus is the best thing that ever happened in my life, and I give thanks to my parents for how they brought me up to know Jesus,” Atsu later explained. “I’m inspired by God, who gives me strength each and every day to move forward in my football career. … It will be difficult [to be successful], but you will because God is your strength.”
At 17, Atsu began playing professional soccer, and in 2011 he was named the Rio Ave club’s player of the year.
He played in the Premier League and, finally, played for Ghana in the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations.
“What if my football [career] doesn’t work? Does that mean that God didn’t listen to my prayers?” he once said. “No. It doesn’t mean that. What is important is that we know God is always there to worship. Even if we fail in our career, we will not be shaken in our belief in God.”
Atsu is survived by his sister, wife, daughter, and two sons.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nathan Stirk/Stringer
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.