Newcastle's Christian Atsu opens up about his tough upbringing in Ghana '“ as he looks to help others out of poverty
Christian Atsu hasn't forgotten his roots. He never will.
Atsu grew up in an unfinished building in Ghana. It’s still unfinished. The 25-year-old always visits it when he returns to his homeland.
Atsu’s footballing talent took him out of poverty in Ghana, but he’s determined to help many more children in his home country.
The Newcastle United winger is an ambassador for Arms Around The Child, a charity which provides housing, protection and education to children. It is staging a gala dinner in Newcastle next month to raise money for its work in Ghana and elsewhere.
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“It’s hard to go back and see the country I left behind,” said Atsu, preparing for Sunday’s home game against Manchester United.
“You never forget the person you were before you left.
“I have friends there who knew me from the beginning. They know the start I had, they know the person I was.
“They keep telling me ‘you believed in God, we’re pleased for you’. Every time when they call me, they say ‘you did everything to survive’. I have survived, but I don’t forget.
“I lived in an uncompleted building. Every time I go back to Ghana, I see the building I lived in. It’s still uncompleted.
“I say to my friends ‘this was me, this is where I came from’. It’s hard in Africa. You cannot imagine what it is like to see the kids with no money, no house, with nowhere to go.”
Atsu broke down talking about the “suffering” of children in Africa. He continued: “We have to build a better world. As a grown-up guy like me, I can suffer. That’s fine. But not the kids. Not when it’s not their fault.”
Atsu has an untold story to tell about his journey of out Africa.
“My parents were farmers,” he said. “My father was also a fisherman. He did a lot of different things to try to get by, and his life was always hard. We grew crops like tomatoes and corn.”
Atsu and his twin sister later joined one of his brothers in Accra.
“We were seven by then, and that was the first chance we had to go to school,” said Atsu. “It was hard, because my brother was working. Often, it was difficult for us to eat.
“We were living in a hall in Accra that had one bedroom and then a sitting room where you had your tea. My mother joined us, so I was with my mother, my twin sister, two other sisters and then my brother, all sleeping in this one room. Things became very hard.”
Atsu joined Feyenoord’s academy in Accra.
“When I was in the academy, my father became sick,” said Atsu.
“But my brothers kept it from me. They didn’t tell me because they knew the chance I had and they said they didn’t want to disturb me while I was training. A few weeks later, they called me and told me that my father had passed away. I hadn’t had the chance to see him.”
* Christian Atsu will host a gala dinner for Arms Around the Child at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on March 14. The fundraising event will combine the worlds of entertainment, football and business. It will feature a performance from artist RAMZ. For tickets and information, go to theblackstargala.eventbrite.co.uk and armsaroundthechild.org.