The outpouring of grief has been enormous. It’s been overwhelming on social media — even from people who don’t like football and indeed those who didn’t know the late Hatayspor player, Christian Atsu. And it’s not like all who’ve been mourning Atsu want to show off. It's far from that.
It’s said in our culture that, we love the dead and often, the love we show after someone has passed on isn’t genuine. I believe on this particular occasion, the love is heartfelt and organic. I’ve been wondering why — why the football world, especially clubs that Atsu played for and Ghanaians in general have been so touched by his death.
Two things come to mind as I analyse all the tributes I’ve seen, heard or read. First is his widely publicised generosity. With that, Atsu deeply touched the heart of humanity wherever he found himself. Following the news of his death, humanity is just giving back in immeasurable quantities the love he showed. We’ve all been saddened by the ill fate he suffered in the earthquake in Turkey on February 6, 2023.
The second thing, I believe, is the circumstances of his demise. Death is inevitable but what’s always uncertain is how each of us will die. It’s painfully untimely for a kind-hearted, lively and active 31-year-old footballer to die in the manner Atsu did.
And there can be nothing as frightening as seeing and feeling the ground under your feet trembling, breaking apart and buildings collapsing, even falling into pieces with human beings helplessly trapped in such a chaotic tragedy. It’s hard trying to imagine what our countryman and the victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake might’ve experienced.
These have contributed to the overwhelming emotional reaction to Atsu’s passing. We’ve to respect the feelings of Atsu’s family. Earlier report of Atsu being alive, the dramatic reversal of the news that he was alive and hospitalised and the subsequent confirmation that he’s now dead coupled with the publication of photos by some people showing him trapped in the rubble – all expose our brutal insensitivity.
Last night, a friend sent me a photo of Atsu’s body in a coffin on a cargo plane. I asked for the wisdom behind circulating such a photo and he said nothing sensible. I don’t know people’s motivation behind publishing such pictures anywhere especially when raw, wounded emotions haven’t healed. We must respect the sensibilities of Atsu’s family.
It’s alright to grieve but we ought to do that in the glory of the dead if not the dignity and feelings of the departed’s family. We must mourn. Yes, it’s important to mourn and sympathise with Atsu’s family but let’s do so by giving due recognition to what’s appropriate, what’s culturally acceptable and what common sense also dictates.
Some have asked whether the Turkish government, Atsu’s club and Ghana did enough to get him alive from the rubble. I don’t know if it’s the right time to ask and answer that question. What’s clear to me is, the magnitude of the catastrophe in Turkey and Syria; the reported arrests of building contractors in Turkey, the lack of proper earthmoving equipment to aid rescue efforts – all bring into sharp focus certain critical matters.
I’ve for instance asked; if in the Melcom building collapse in Accra, rescue experts including well-trained dogs came in from Israel and other places to assist us in rescue response work, what makes us assume that our financially-constraint government was in any position to send rescuers or even equipment to Turkey? I make no excuses for the government. I fully understand why questions would be asked of the Ghana Embassy in Turkey for example and whatever they did.
Those are legitimate questions. I wish those of us asking would’ve heartwarmingly answers. I’m not so hopeful in that regard. What I’m hopeful of is God soothing the pain of Atsu’s family and all of us who’re mourning following his loss. God keep him in his bosom and protect the family he’s left behind.