When Christian Atsu followed Pelé

<strong>When Christian Atsu followed Pelé</strong>

When Ednes Arantes do Nasci­mento died in the very twi­light of 2022 the world stood still. Not that his death was unexpect­ed; he was losing his battle against colon cancer and, at a point, was not responding to any medication. The world knew him simply as Pelé.

What endeared Pelé to the world was his persona on and off the football field. He was a gentleman par excel­lence, a model to budding footballers, a philanthropist and an exceptionally humble person. He was the only person to have won three World Cups, scored 1,283 (some say 1,289) goals in his career.

Many who did not see Pelé in action back in his day are quick to compare him to the Argentine leg­end, Diego Amardo Maradona, as the greatest footballer of all time. What put Pelé over and above Maradona was the totality of their characters. The Argentine had dented his own image by drugs that eventually caused his early demise. Maradona failed as a credible ambassador for the sweet game of football with his addiction to cocaine.

Though Pelé was almost a Don Juan, his escapades did not diminish his stature on the world scene. He was, indeed, declared athlete of the 20th Century. He was a UNICEF ambassador and supported orphanages financially. Many of these deeds became known after his death.

Then comes the tragic, untimely yet painful death of Ghana’s own Christian Atsu Twasam in the earthquake in Turki­ye on the 6th of last month. Ghanaians were on tenter­hooks when it was announced that Atsu was on the 9th floor of an apartment block that suffered the natural disas­ter.

We crossed our fingers in prayer that he should be pulled out alive and, for almost a week after, nothing was heard about his whereabouts. His partner, with whom he had three chil­dren, cried to the world to find her man. His twin sister did the same from Ghana.

And when the news broke of the discovery of his remains Ghana was totally heartbroken. In the end it put a nation’s anxiety to rest. We had a clo­sure one way or another. That gem of a professional footballer was gone. But the pain will manifest at his funeral and after.

Atsu was just as humble as Pelé was and even more philanthropic. Though very shy before the cameras he was not as shy with his generosity.

As an ardent follower of football I have followed the life and game of many world Ghanaian footballers. Atsu was one such person. I knew he was overly philanthropic and I had met with a few people who were beneficiaries of his generosity.

But, most of them were quick to add that Atsu did not want them to make noise about what he did for them. I am told he bought instruments for a friend who wanted to establish a church, but warned him not to engage in false miracle per­formances.

My heart went to the poor children who I watched sobbing in a video from a school Atsu had helped estab­lish. It was really heart-wrenching to watch.

People have spoken on radio and television attesting to Atsu’s benevo­lence. This is what makes me happy. Happy, because great souls will do great things and prefer no adulation and public mention of their good deeds. Atsu is a great soul. He reminds me of the Christ Jesus who healed peo­ple and told them not to tell anyone.

Of course, Christ knew that the people He healed would not keep their mouths shut. So did Atsu because some of us knew his goodness. I’m in no way comparing Christian Atsu to Jesus. I’m only trying to accentuate the esoteric that we should not let trumpets herald the good we do for others.

As there is no vacuum in nature, our goodness will get told one way or the other. It is not for us to gloat. Atsu knew his own background and did not want to see others face similar circum­stances if he could help it. He did not need to earn the megabucks as some footballers did in order to help. Help he did.

I am unable to forgive the ignora­muses; I rather pity them. I have read and heard some of these characters try to chastise those who are eulogising Atsu for his deeds. Their beef is why they did not praise Atsu while he was alive. How do you celebrate a bene­factor who tells you not to make noise about what he does for you?

I used to tell my children that they would only know who their Dad was at my funeral. I have even since re­vised this so that no trib­utes are presented at my cre­mation. If no trum­pets her­alded my birth, why should they herald my departure? But the only choice Atsu had was to do silent deeds.

Sadly, some of those criticising the praise singers are men of God who should know better. This only points to our lighthearted or fake approach to God’s work. I was hoping they would call on Atsu’s footballing colleagues to take over and care for those poor children who have become ‘orphaned’ by his death.

I know some of our so-called stars would rather gather friends and acquaintances to go out and chill in an all-night orgy of self indulgence. After all, no one earned the money for them. I know there are others doing bigger things than Atsu sought to do, yet make no noise about their deeds. I know those who would give goodies to their parents in the full glare of the public.

As is with every sad situation, les­sons abound in the Atsu narrative. How do we in the public limelight handle our lives and our affairs? What legacy do we leave when we are no more? How do we expect to be remembered? Whether we leave a positive footprint in the sands of time is an individual choice to make.

Some died and only a paragraph was written in their memories. Some were not even made public till you asked of them before you knew they were gone. Very soon, Atsu will be all but forgotten, save the beneficiaries of his largesse. However, his benevolence will live after him.

Let us encourage those who are minded to use their public image and resources to help the less fortunate do so without let or hindrance. There is always a blessing and a sense of fulfill­ment in giving rather than receiving.

Pelé left a footprint on the foot­ball stage that will never be wiped out. No wonder FIFA has decreed that each member country should dedicate and name one stadium after the great Brazilian. Many countries have started. However, Ghana has a Pelé of its own in the person of Abedi Ayew.

Therefore, if any of our stadiums is named Pelé, many Ghanaians will think it is after our legend, Abedi. I am yet to know what our government and the GFA will do about this. If you asked me, I would suggest a Do Nascimento Stadium. What of Do Nascimento Pelé Stadium?

Now, is there anything the GFA can do to immortalise Christian Atsu? His could be a special case when we come to think of the circumstances of his painful exit.

May the Good Lord grant Christian Atsu Twasam eternal rest and grant his family and friends the fortitude to bear the great loss.

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By Dr. Akofa K. Segbefia

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