Monday 20 February 2023, 11:00

Football community rallies around Turkey and Syria

  • Football world shows its solidarity after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

  • Ghana international Christian Atsu among the 44,000 dead

  • FIFA Foundation makes USD 1 million available to help victims

Saturday 18 February 2023 was a sad day for football, as the news came through that Ghana international Christian Atsu (65 caps, ten goals) had fallen victim to the devastating earthquake that recently struck Turkey and Syria. He was 31.

Countless tributes were paid to the Black Star over the weekend, both online and on the pitch, as players, clubs, associations, coaches and fans joined as one to express their sadness at the loss of a fine and likeable player. Over the last two weeks, the football community has rallied together to support all the victims of this awful tragedy.

More than 44,000 people have died in the disaster, while many more have been left homeless in freezing winter temperatures. Founded in 2018 to put FIFA’s commitment to social progress into action, the FIFA Foundation has announced that it is making a USD 1 million available to help provide urgent humanitarian aid.

Following consultation with the Turkish Football Association (TFF), the Syrian Football Association (SFA) and a number of local and international NGOs, the decision was made to use the funds to buy and distribute essential humanitarian supplies and provide emergency shelter and accommodation for people affected by the earthquake.

Qatar is also doing its bit to put a roof over the heads of the victims. The host nation of last year’s FIFA World Cup has announced that it has delivered 10,000 containers to the two countries hit by the earthquake. These inhabitable boxes, which each have a bed, two small windows and various storage spaces, were used during the competition to accommodate supporters from all over the world. Their use in response to this crisis brings the Qatar 2022 legacy to life.

Many of the players who graced last year’s World Cup have also shown their support for Turkey and Syria by posting messages on social media and appealing for donations. Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Eden Hazard have all joined an initiative launched by Turkey and Atalanta star Merih Demiral, who has set up an online auction of shirts from his personal collection. The proceeds will go to an association supporting people bereaved by the tragedy and in need of support.

Two more Qatar 2022 stars lending a helping hand are Canada team-mates Samuel Adekugbe and Atiba Hutchinson, who respectively play for Turkish giants Galatasaray and Besiktas and have teamed up with the Red Cross to support the aid fund it has set up.

We try to send the message to Canada and try to collect donations and help for people in need here in Turkey

Atiba Hutchinson, captain of Canada and Besiktas.

Also rallying in support are a host of Turkish and Turkey-based players, among them Ilkay Gundogan, Stefan Kuntz, Volkan Demirel, Lukas Podolski, Cenck Ozkacar, Kim Minjae and Vedat Muriqi, all of whom have made generous donations to victims’ charities.

Others are devoting their time, an equally valuable commodity, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Dries Mertens, Andrea Pirlo and Yannick Bolasie turning up in person to collect food and supplied for the victims.

The football community as a whole has pulled together to help those struck by the tragedy, with confederations (UEFA), national associations (Croatia, Austria and others), leagues (among them the Qatar Stars League, English Premier League and Saudi Pro League) and clubs (Barcelona, Southampton, Everton, Liverpool, Cologne and many more) all making donations and launching appeals. Football was united in celebration during the World Cup last year. Now, at a time of tragedy and mourning, it continues to stick together as one.