Kevin Olivier Soni, Cameroon international and former Hatayspor teammate of Christian Atsu, has revealed his last interaction with the former Black Stars player before the earthquake struck on Monday 6 February.
The Indomitable Lions midfielder has revealed harrowing details of his escape from Hatay, the club’s home town and one of the areas worst hit by the natural disaster.
In a wide-ranging interview with French news outlet Foot Mercato, Soni spoke about the events before, during and after the disaster, including answering questions about Atsu.
Here is a transcript of what he said about Atsu
Foot Mercato: Some members of the club have not had your luck and are still missing, like Christian Atsu.
Kevin Soni: I get goose bumps talking to you. Before this happened, I was on the phone with Christian Atsu. He had scored a free-kick on Sunday and I told him that he had played well and that I liked his game.
I told him that I hoped to find the ground quickly so that we could play together. Little did I know that was the last time I’d ever speak to him. Two hours later I had no news. I was told that my friend might be dead, it’s enough to drive you crazy.
I am certainly the last person to have spoken to him on the phone. I’m not proud to say this, but I really hope we find him safe and sound. It is my wish. I pray for it every day.
Foot Mercato: Some media have said that he has been found. Do you have any news?
Kevin Soni: Those are lies. We flew back to Istanbul on Tuesday night and he was not with us. If he was found, why wasn’t he on the plane? These are lies.
They may have said that to keep up hope and not to frighten his family. What I can tell you is that he was not on the flight to Istanbul. I hope we will find him.
Atsu, Hatayspor official still missing
Christian Atsu and Hatayspor’s sporting director, Taner Savut, are among those still believed to be under the rubble.
Reports emerged that Atsu had been rescued alive and taken to hospital after 26 hours (7 February), but this was later dismissed as a case of mistaken identity.
According to Ghana’s ambassador to Turkey, Atsu is the only Ghanaian still unaccounted for.
About the 6 February earthquake
A powerful earthquake struck the southern provinces of Turkey and neighbouring Syria, killing thousands within Turkish borders and many more in war-torn Syria.
A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northwestern Syria, toppling buildings and sparking a search for survivors trapped in the rubble.
As of 9 February 2023, the death toll from Monday’s powerful earthquakes in southern Turkey had risen to 17,674 and the number of injured to 72,879, Vice President Fuat Oktay said.
The disaster, dubbed the “disaster of the century” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also killed at least 3,377 people in neighbouring Syria, regime and opposition authorities said, bringing the combined toll to 21,051.
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