Mohammed Kudus was thankful to the referee for understanding his tribute to Christian Atsu was “bigger than the rules of football”.
Kudus scored the final goal in Ajax’s 4-0 rout of Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday, moving John Heitinga’s team into second in the Eredivisie.
The Ghana international who enjoyed a fine World Cup, curled in a free-kick in the 84th minute and celebrated by removing his shirt to show an undershirt with the message “RIP Atsu”.
It was confirmed on Saturday that former Chelsea, Porto, Newcastle United and Everton winger Atsu had died in the earthquakes that shook southern Turkey and northern Syria.
The 31-year-old had been missing since February 6, but his body was eventually recovered from the rubble of his apartment building in the city of Hatay, where he had been playing for Hatayspor.
Kudus scoring from a left-footed free-kick was a fitting tribute in itself to his late compatriot Atsu, who netted with the same kind of effort in his final game, on February 5.
Referee Pol van Boekel spoke with Kudus after his celebration, but did not book the 22-year-old.
Kudus told ESPN: “This is bigger than the rules of football, it’s about life and death.
“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.”
Rest in peace, Christian Atsu pic.twitter.com/TJHBYMxyUq
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) February 19, 2023
Explaining his tribute, Kudus said: “This one was for Christian. Everyone knows what happened in Turkey. I chose this because he is dear to me.
“It’s naturally for all those families that are affected. I learned a lot from watching him, he also regularly gave me advice. Everything I gave today was for him.
“If I hadn’t have scored, I would have shown the shirt after the game.”
Over 47,000 people have died as a result of the earthquakes.
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