Nwankwo Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu: The Nigerian Ex-Footballer With a Brave Heart

Nwankwo Kanu nicknamed Papilo is a retired Nigerian International footballer. In 1992, during the African U-20 Youth Championship held in Mauritius, he was rejected because he was too tiny. The hunger to succeed made him work hard, and this eventually paid off, as he was invited to feature in the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Japan. He Captained the team to victory as they defeated African neighbors 2-1 in an entertaining final to lift the trophy.

The gangling striker who was born in Owerri, Eastern Nigeria has played in top clubs in Europe, including- Ajax Amsterdam of Holland, Inter Milan of Italy, Arsenal of England, West Bromwich Albion of England and Portsmouth FC of England where he eventually hanged his boots.

A member of the Jo Bonfere team that snatched Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. Kanu Nwankwo was then diagnosed with a heart defect after returning from the Atlanta Olympics. He underwent successful heart surgery in November of 1996 and later returned to Inter Milan in April of 1997. When others gave up on him, he bounced back to the game that brought him fame and fortune.

One of the things that have set Nwankwo Kanu apart is the burning desire to win. This was evident in the array of medals and trophies he has won in his long and illustrious career.
To date, he is the most decorated Nigerian player. In case anyone is in doubt, the following medals and honor will erase all doubts.

  • 1993 FIFA U-17 World Youth Championship
  • Gold Medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Soccer events
  • 2008 F.A Cup winner with Portsmouth F.C England
  • Three Trophies with Arsenal F.C of England from 1999 to 2004
  • 1997-1998 UEFA Cup Winner with Inter Milan of Italy
  • Six Trophies with Ajax F.C of Holland from 1993 to 1996
  • 1992-1993 Premier League Winner with Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri
  • Afro Asian Cup Trophy in 1995
  • Twice African Footballer of the year in 1996 and 1999
  • BBC African footballer of the year in 1997 and 1999

Indeed Nwankwo Kanu is a living legend who has never ceased to amaze soccer pundits who thought he should have hung his boots. That was during the darkest moments of his career in 1996 immediately after he led the Nigerian Dream team one to capture Gold at Atlanta Olympics soccer events. He returned to active football in April 1997 even stronger and determined. It was the height of bravery and strong faith in God

To illustrate how big his heart was, Kanu Nwankwo on July 31st, 2000, set up a heart foundation for the treatment of less privileged children diagnosed with the heart-related disease. So far the foundation has successfully helped 538 children with heart defects. He is presently the Nigeria Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund. The former Super Eagles star who had a total of 87 caps for the senior national team with 12 goals, is happily married to Amarachi and they are blessed with three wonderful kids- Pinky Amarachi Kanu, Iyang Onyekachi Kanu, and Sean Chukwudi Kanu.

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