Hatayspor coach Volkan Demirel has shared his poignant recollection of his last encounter with Christian Atsu, just hours before the devastating earthquake claimed the Ghanaian footballer’s life.
Demirel provided a heartfelt account of his interactions with Atsu during the week leading up to the former Black Stars attacker’s last game, in which he scored a late-minute winner, in an interview with The Athletic.
“For two months he’d not played because of injury but in the week building up to the game he came to my office and said that he was ready to play. I told him that was good, but he wasn’t ready to start. In the last 10 minutes, we decided to put him on,” Demirel revealed.
“In the last minute, we got a free-kick and I was telling him to cross it, but he told his teammates he was going to shoot, and he scored a beautiful free-kick.
“I was so happy for him because he’d been out for a while. He was a good player, but most importantly a good man, a good character, he helped everyone, he would always give money to staff. He had a very big heart.
“After the match, he said to me, ‘I want to keep playing’. The last time I saw him he was happy and then he was gone.”
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Atsu was declared missing after the earthquake and was found dead nine days later. Demirel expressed his thoughts on the initial reports that incorrectly claimed Atsu had been found by rescuers.
“It was something that spread so quickly, somebody saw a guy they thought was Christian. We knew it was not true, I went nearly every morning to the buildings, other people were saying this and that.”
Atsu was laid to rest in his hometown of Ada Foah on March 17.