Turkey’s Hatayspor hope to resume training in July after February’s huge earthquake

TURKISH football side Hatayspor, who lost star player Christian Atsu in last month’s devastating earthquake, hope to return to training in July and August.

“The whole city is busy clearing rubble,” club vice-president Aydin Toksöz noted, saying any chance of restarting the club again before then is impossible amid the destruction in the city of Antakya.

Training facilities have been damaged and some players have been temporarily transferred to other teams to stay in shape.

Hatayspor, along with fellow south-eastern club Gaziantep, suspended their participation in the Turkish Süper Lig after the quake.

The club is financially ruined, with their entire annual budget of 350 million liras (18 million dollars) lost.

Already, Turks living in Europe have offered financial support.

Hatayspor’s stadium, where Ghana’s Atsu scored a winning goal just over a month ago, now serves as an emergency shelter for the homeless, with tent after tent lined up next to the entrance.

Atsu’s goal, a superb free-kick, came in a victory against Kasimpasa on Feb. 6.

“The whole city went crazy, everyone was so happy because the victory strengthened our hopes of staying in the league,” Toksöz said.

Hours later, Atsu, like tens of thousands of others, was buried under the rubble of his building.

His death was confirmed after almost two weeks of uncertainty on Feb. 18.

The earthquake has brought unimaginable suffering to Turkey and Syria and has also deeply affected sports.

Fans at big clubs such as Fenerbahce have demanded the Turkish government resign for its response to the disaster.

The public criticism has stung President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of elections in May.

Stories of tragedy abound, such as a school volleyball team from Northern Cyprus being in the quake area for a tournament.

The hotel in Adiyaman where the girls and boys aged between 12 and 14 were staying collapsed, with none of the 25 children being able to be rescued.

Hatayspor lost others besides Atsu, including sporting director Taner Savut and several junior players.

“It’s hard to describe our pain,” Toksöz said.(dpa/NAN)