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Kanu Nwankwo: Successful African footballers in Europe



Nwankwo Kanu is a Nigerian former professional footballer who played as a forward. He was born on 1 August 1976 in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. He started his career at local club Federation Works, before moving to Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland FC). He rose to fame after winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup with Nigeria in 1993, where he scored five goals and was named the best player of the tournament. He then joined Ajax in the Netherlands, where he won three league titles, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Super Cup. He also scored a spectacular goal against Bayern Munich in the 1995 UEFA Super Cup final.

In 1996, Kanu moved to Inter Milan in Italy, where he faced a serious heart problem that threatened his career. He underwent surgery and recovered, but he only played 12 games for Inter, scoring one goal. He also captained Nigeria to win the Olympic gold medal in 1996, scoring two late goals to beat Brazil in the semi-final. He was named the African Footballer of the Year in 1996 and 1999.

In 1999, Kanu joined Arsenal in England, where he became a fan favourite and a club legend. He won two league titles, two FA Cups and one Community Shield with Arsenal. He also scored some memorable goals for the Gunners, such as a hat-trick against Chelsea in 1999, a backheel against Middlesbrough in 2000 and a volley against Tottenham in 2002. He made 197 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals.

In 2004, Kanu moved to West Bromwich Albion, where he spent two seasons and scored seven goals. He then joined Portsmouth in 2006, where he won another FA Cup in 2008, scoring the only goal in the final against Cardiff City. He also scored a penalty against AC Milan in a UEFA Cup match in 2008. He played for Portsmouth until 2012, when he left the club after their relegation to the third tier of English football. He retired from professional football that year.

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Kanu was also a key player for the Nigeria national team, earning 86 caps and scoring 12 goals. He played in four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, reaching the final in 2000. He also played in three FIFA World Cups, in 1998, 2002 and 2010. He is regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, and one of the best players of his generation.

Kanu is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and the founder of the Kanu Heart Foundation, which helps children with heart problems. He is also the owner of Kanu Sports TV, an online sports television company. He is married to Amara Kanu and has three children.

What is the Kanu Heart Foundation?

The Kanu Heart Foundation (KHF) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation that was founded by Nwankwo Kanu, a Nigerian former professional footballer, in 2000. The aim of the foundation is to help underprivileged children and young adults in Nigeria and other African countries who suffer from life-threatening heart conditions, such as congenital heart defects, rheumatic heart disease and cardiomyopathy. The foundation helps them to obtain life-saving surgeries within and outside Nigeria, by raising funds, sponsoring medical trips, providing logistics and partnering with hospitals and doctors.

Since its inception, the foundation has successfully helped 538 children of varying ages get open heart surgeries in countries such as England, Israel, India and Sudan. The foundation has spent about $4.2 million for these surgeries, an average of $10,000 per person. However, the foundation has a long waiting list of over 200 children who need urgent intervention, and the cost of travelling abroad for treatment is high and unsustainable.

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Therefore, the foundation is proposing to build and equip an ultra-modern cardiac centre in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. The project, which will be the first of its kind in the country, is expected to perform at least 250 open-heart surgeries annually when completed. The project will also provide training and employment opportunities for Nigerian medical personnel, as well as reduce the capital flight involved in seeking medical care abroad. The federal government of Nigeria has given the foundation a piece of land in Abuja for the project, and the foundation has organised several fundraising events to raise money for the construction.

The Kanu Heart Foundation is not only a humanitarian organisation, but also a social movement that aims to raise awareness and advocacy for cardiovascular health in Africa. The foundation also collaborates with other organisations, such as UNICEF, FIFA and StarTimes, to promote education, sports and entertainment as tools for social change. The foundation is driven by the vision of putting back smiles on the faces of children with heart problems, and giving them a new lease of life.


Written by Daniel Elombah

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