After a glorious career and service to his father land, former Super Eagles captain and soccer legend, Nwankwo Christian Nwosu Kanu, will kick a final goodbye to the round leather game with a testimonial match between Friends of Kanu and Super Eagles’ All Stars to mark an end to a career that has endeared him to millions of people around the globe.
Among the friends of Kanu expected for the testimonial match at the Teslim Balagun Stadium, Lagos are Chelsea of England Ghanaian midfielder, Michael Essien; Cote d’Ivoire’s forward, Didier Drogba; France’s 1998 World Cup winning defender, Marcel Dessaily, Kanu former team mate in Arsenal, Thierry Henry among others. While Lagos State Governor, Babatunde
Raji Fashola is expected to lead Super Eagles’ All-Stars squad out for the match, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) will provide technical officials for the two teams, as well as security, medical items and match officials.
Nwankwo Christian Nwosu Kanu, born 1st August 1976 in Owerri, was a member of the Nigerian national team for 16 years and has won a UEFA Champions League medal, a UEFA Cup medal, three FA Cup Winners Medals and two African Player of the Year awards, amongst others. He is also one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal He. is also one of UNICEF’s ambassadors.
Kanu began his career at First Division club Federation Works before moving to Iwuanyanwu Nationale in 1992. After a notable performance at the U-17 World Championships, he was signed by Dutch Eredivisie AFC Ajax in 1993 for €207,047. He made his Ajax debut the following year and went on to score 25 goals in 54 appearances. He also came on as a sub in
Ajax’s 1995 Champions League final win over AC Milan. In 1996, Ajax sold him to Serie A side, Internazionale for around $4.7. That summer, he captained the Nigerian Olympic team that won gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, and scored two late goals in the semi-finals against soccer powerhouse, Brazil to overturn a 2–3 scoreline into a 4–3 win in extra time.
Kanu was also named African Footballer of the Year for that same year. However, soon after returning from the Olympics, Kanu underwent a medical examination at Inter, which revealed a serious heart defect; he went through a surgery in November 1996 to replace an aortic valve and did not return to his club until April 1997. Kanu, a Christian faithful, often cited his faith as a Christian, and referred this trying time of his career as an occasion when he prayed to God. Kanu’s experience also led to his founding, the Kanu Heart Foundation, an organisation that helps predominantly young African children, who suffer heart defects. Kanu is known throughout Africa for his philanthropic work.
In February 1999, after just 11 games and one goal for Inter, Kanu was signed by Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger for approximately £4.15 million. He made his Arsenal debut against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, was a highly unusual match.
Despite the events overshadowing his debut, Kanu’s career was quickly revived at Arsenal. He scored his first goal for the club in the next round of the cup against Derby County, coming off the bench to net the only goal of the game. He quickly became known for his goalscoring prowess from the bench, scoring important goals against Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa as a substitute. He became very popular among the fans for his two-fingered salute – something that he later explained was based on the team’s nickname, The Gunner.
Kanu was named African Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1999, and in 1999–2000 he scored 17 times in 50 matches for the Gunners, Including three goals in fifteen minutes against Chelsea to turn a 2–0 deficit to a 3–2 victory. However, Kanu’s appearances for Arsenal gradually became less frequent, particularly after the emergence of Thierry Henry as Arsenal’s first choice striker, while he was mainly used as a substitute. Despite this, the Nigerian internaional won the Double with Arsenal in 2002, FA Cup in 2003 and Premier League title in 2004. In all, he played 197 games for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals. In the summer of 2004, after his contract with Arsenal ended, he moved to West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom had just been promoted to the FA Premier League for the second time in the space of two years. Kanu started as a regular for the club, making his debut in a 1–1 draw away at Blackburn Rovers on 14 August 2004. He scored his first goal for Albion on 18 September 2004, an 88th-minute equalizer in a 1–1 home draw against Fulham.
The 2004–05 season, was ultimately a memorable one for West Brom, as they became the first club to avoid relegation from the Premier League after being bottom of the table at Christmas. One of the most memorable games of the 2005–06 season for Kanu at West Brom came with the visit of his former club Arsenal to The Hawthorns on 15 October 2005. Philippe Senderos put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute, but Kanu equalised shortly before half time. West Brom went on to win the match 2–1 with a spectacular strike from Darren Carter.
It was their first home win over Arsenal since 1973, and the first time that they had come from behind to win a Premier League game. But such highlights were rare for Albion that season, and the club was relegated at the end of 2005–06.
Kanu’s contract with West Brom expired June 2006, and he chose not to renew it. In his two years at The Hawthorns he made a total of 58 appearances – 16 of them as a substitute – and scored nine goals.
In the summer of 2006, Kanu played as a guest for Arsenal in Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial game, the first match to be played in Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium. The game was tied 1–1 when Kanu scored the winning goal, making him the third person to score in the stadium. At the end of the match, Kanu joined the rest of the Arsenal side in hoisting the retired Dutchman on their shoulders as fans gave him a standing ovation. He remains a popular figure at Arsenal, being applauded when he appears at the Emirates Stadium.
Kanu was a free agent following his departure from West Brom, and he signed for Portsmouth on a one-year deal shortly before the start of the 2006–07 season. Pompey had undergone a revival in the second half of the previous campaign, following the return of Harry Redknapp as manager, avoiding relegation by four points after being in serious danger at the turn of the year. At the start of the 2006–07 season, they were undefeated in their first five games, during which they did not concede a single goal.
Kanu made his debut for Portsmouth as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers on 19 August 2006, the opening day of the 2006–2007 Premier League season. He scored twice and missed a penalty. Though Kanu led the top scorers chart early in the season, he had a goal drought for the rest of the season, but still finished as the top goalscorer for Portsmouth, with 12 goals.
In his second season at Portsmouth, Kanu scored in both the FA Cup 1–0 semi-final win against West Bromwich Albion and the 1–0 win in the final against Cardiff City, earning him a third FA Cup winner’s medal.
His first goal of the 2008–09 season put Portsmouth 2–0 up in their eventual 2–2 UEFA Cup draw with Italian club Milan. He later scored the winning goal against Bolton Wanderers which ensured Pompey’s mathematical safety. It was his only Premier League goal of 2008–2009. He re-signed with Pompey in August 2010 with an eye on becoming a coach when he retired.
Kanu was a member of the Nigerian national team from 1994 until 2010, making his debut in a friendly against Sweden. Earlier on at the start of his career, Kanu was instrumental in Nigeria’s overall success at the 1993 FIFA U-17 tournament in Japan and their subsequent 2–1 victory over Ghana in the final. With five goals, he was second joint-scorer in the tournament with Peter Anosike and Manuel Neira, behind compatriot and Captain Wilson Oruma.
As well as winning the Olympics gold in the football event at 1996 Olympics, Kanu participated in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups. On 24 June 2010, Kanu ended his international career following Nigeria’s exit from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Nigeria lost their group matches against Argentina and Greece, before a 2–2 draw with South Korea ended their stay in the tournament. He won 86 caps and scored 13 goals for his country and is the joint most capped Nigerian player of all-time alongside Muda Lawal. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nwankwo_Kanu
South Korea’s midfielder Kim Jung-Woo (R) clashes with Nigeria’s midfielder Nwankwo Kanu (L) during the Group B first round 2010 World Cup football match between Nigeria and South Korea on June 22, 2010 at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.
• Nigerian Premier League: 1992-93
• Dutch Eredivisie: 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96
• UEFA Champions League: 1994–95
• UEFA Super Cup: 1995
• Intercontinental Cup: 1995
• UEFA Cup: 1997–98
• Premier League: 2001–02, 2003–04
• FA Cup: 2001–02, 2002–03,2007-08
• FA Community Shield: 1999
National Team Awards
• FIFA U-17 World Cup: 1993
• Olympic Gold Medal: 1996
• African Footballer of the Year: 1996, 1999
• BBC African Footballer of the Year: 1997, 1999.