Ajax forward Mohammed Kudus has thanked referee Pol van Boekel for his leniency after paying tribute to Christian Atsu who died in the earthquake in Turkey, Voetbal International reports.
The Ghanaian international, 22, paid tribute to his compatriot after he scored his ninth goal in the Eredivisie this season in his side’s 4-0 at home against Sparta Rotterdam and unveiled a shirt with the text ‘RIP Atsu’.
Usually, player’s celebrating by taking their shirt off or unveiling a shirt underneath with a slogan is a yellow card offence but official Van Boekel waived away any penalty on the striker and was praised for his handling of the sensitive situation.
Despite never playing alongside the former Vitesse loanee, Kudus dedicated his goal and his side’s win to Atsu.
Speaking after the match, Kudus said: “This one was for Christian Atsu. Everyone knows what happened in Turkey. I chose this because he loves me. But it’s natural for all those families that are affected.”
“But I learned a lot from watching him, he also regularly gave me advice. Everything I gave today was for him. If I hadn’t scored, I would have shown the shirt after the game.”
“This is bigger than the rules of football, it’s about life and death,” Kudus said. “The referee said it was not allowed, but he understood the situation. I am grateful to him for that and I respect him very much.”
Former Newcastle United winger Atsu went missing in the immediate aftermath in the earthquake which affected Turkey and Syria. One of the areas in Turkey affected was Antakya where he stayed after securing the winner for Hatayspor the day before the earthquake.
Despite early reports from the club vice-president Mustafa Ozat stating he was recovering in hospital a day after the earthquake, the former Chelsea player was not found until 12 days after the disaster.
His body was flown to Ghana to his family on Monday (February 20).