Mohammed Kudus escaped punishment after his shirt-removing Atsu tribute

Mohammed Kudus has given the referee ‘big respect’ after he refused to book the Ajax forward for removing his shirt in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Sparta Rotterdam.

Kudus bent home a lovely free-kick with six minutes to go following a brace from Dusan Tadic and Kenneth Taylor effort in the second half.

The 22-year-old wheeled away in celebration before pulling his shirt over his head and displaying a tribute to Christian Atsu, which read ‘RIP Atsu’.

Atsu’s body was found in Turkey on Saturday after being caught in an earthquake which hit the country and Syria on Monday, February 6.

He last played for Hatayspor and scored a 97th-minute winner against Kasimpasa a day before the earthquake.

Hatayspor administrative manager Fatih Ilek later revealed Atsu was set to visit family but cancelled his plane ticket after scoring and playing well.

Atsu represented Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle United in the Premier League, helping the Magpies earn promotion to the Premier League in 2017. He earned 65 caps for Ghana at international level, scoring 10 goals.

Fellow Ghana international Kudus was one of several players to pay tribute to him and later thanked referee Pol van Boekel for not handing him a yellow card.

Van Boekel could be seen in conversation with Kudus shortly before kick-off but it didn’t go further than that. In his post-match interview, Kudus explained: “We have football rules but this is beyond football, this is about life and death.

“The referee told me it’s not allowed (shirt removal) but he understands because this is a bigger situation than football. A big respect from me to the referee.”

Ajax are currently second in the Eredivisie under Johnny Heitinga, who will remain in charge until the end of the season.

Atsu’s body has been returned to his native Ghana. After landing in Accra late on Sunday evening, members of Ghana’s armed forces carried the coffin.

Mahamudu Bawumia, the vice president of Ghana, said per BBC: “We hoped against hope, every day that passed, we prayed and prayed. But alas, when he was found, he was no more. It is a painful loss, a very painful one.”

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