Arguably the greatest Nigerian football player and one of the most gifted and intelligent, Nwankwo Kanu is a two-time CAF African Footballer of the Year, and one of the most decorated Nigerian – and indeed African – soccer legends.

Affectionately referred to as Papilo, Nwankwo Kanu was born on August 1, 1976, in Owerri the capital of Imo State, Nigeria. His prodigious talent as a teenager prompted Iwuanyanwu Nationale FC of Owerri, a frontline football club in the top division of the Nigerian league at the time to sign him and put him in their first team squad.

In 1993, Kanu was part of the Golden Eaglets, the Nigerian U-17 national team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan, beating fellow Africans, the Black Starlets of Ghana in the final. Following the U-17 World Cup where he was a joint second highest goal scorer of the tournament, Kanu was quickly snapped up by Ajax FC of Amsterdam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lining up along with fellow Nigerian international Finidi George, and a young crop of rising Dutch talents which included Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, and Clarence Seedorf, Kanu made 54 appearances for the Dutch team, scoring 25 goals from 1994 to 1996. In that period, Kanu won the Eredivisie (Dutch premier league) three times (1993-94, 1994-95 & 1995-96 seasons).

In 1995, Kanu and Ajax FC won the UEFA Champions League when they defeated AC Milan of Italy. Ajax FC also won the 1995 UEFA Super Cup, and the 1995 Club World Cup. Inter Milan FC soon came calling and Kanu made the switch to the Italian Serie A in 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That same year at the Atlanta Olympics, Kanu led the Nigerian U-23 football team dubbed the Dream Team which won the gold medal after beating Brazil and Argentina in the semi-final and final respectively.

The semi-final match against Brazil is regarded as one of the classics of Olympic football games. Brazil was leading 3-1 before Nigeria pulled back one goal to make it 3-2. In the dying minutes of the game, Kanu scored the equalizer to tie the game at 3-3 and send the game into extra-time. He subsequently scored a golden goal to end the game at 3-4 sending Nigeria to the final and gold medal match against Argentina.

Kanu was named CAF African Footballer of the Year 1996, however, he was soon diagnosed with a heart condition during a medical check at his new club in Italy. It was thought that Kanu’s football career was over, but he underwent a successful heart surgery to correct the defect in November 1996 and soon resumed playing for Inter Milan in April 1997. The BBC later named him their 1997 African Footballer of the Year.

In 1999, Kanu was signed by Arsenal FC of London and he won the 1999 FA Community Shield with the Gunners, as well as two Barclays Premier League titles (2001-02 & 2003-04) and two FA Cups (2001-02 & 2002-03). He would win the FA Cup a third time with Portsmouth FC in the 2007-08 season after leaving Arsenal FC. The Gunners went unbeaten during the 2003-04 season and were called ‘The Invincibles.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kanu left Arsenal in 2004 and joined West Brom Albion, before eventually signing for Portsmouth at the start of the 2006-07 season. In May 2008, Kanu scored the decider in the semi-final and final of the FA Cup to win the tournament, the first for Portsmouth in 69 years. Kanu eventually left Portsmouth in July 2012 accusing the club of owing him up to ₤3m in unpaid wages and threatened legal actions, but he dropped the case in April 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kanu left Arsenal in 2004 and joined West Brom Albion, before eventually signing for Portsmouth at the start of the 2006-07 season. In May 2008, Kanu scored the decider in the semi-final and final of the FA Cup to win the tournament, the first for Portsmouth in 69 years. Kanu eventually left Portsmouth in July 2012 accusing the club of owing him up to ₤3m in unpaid wages and threatened legal actions, but he dropped the case in April 2013.

Kanu played for Nigeria from 1994 to 2010, captaining the team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He won both the CAF and BBC African Footballer for the second time in 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 21, 2000, Nwankwo Kanu founded the Kanu Heart Foundation® to “put back smiles” on the faces of Nigerian and African children and young adult suffering from heart defects. Apart from philanthropy, Kanu is a businessman and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He is married with children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional information, please see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nwankwo_Kanu

http://howng.com/nigerias-greatest-footballer-kanu-nwankwo-turns-40/

http://www.kanuheartfoundationng.com/?

http://www.goal.com/en-ng/news/17742/olympics/2016/08/04/26213082/kanu-the-lanky-boy-who-shook-the-world-at-atlanta-96

Afro Tourism® salutes this former Nigerian international football star, Olympic gold medalist, world champion and two-time African footballer of the year; city icon, national hero and African soccer legend, businessman, philanthropist and loving husband and father, Nwankwo Kanu!

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Niyi David

Niyi David

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'Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism® capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.
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