Nwankwo KanuLegendary Nigeria Footballer
- Date of Birth
- August 1, 1976
- Place of Birth
- Owerri, Nigeria
- 1.97 m (6 ft 5 ½ in)
- Playing Position
Nwankwo Kanu, OON (born 1 August 1976), or simply Kanu, is a retired Nigerian footballer who played as a striker. He was a member of and later captained the Nigerian national team for 16 years from 1994 until 2010. Kanu is a member of the Igbo ethnic group; his name, Nwankwo, means Child born on Nkwo market day in the Igbo language.
Kanu 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 made the third-most substitute appearances in Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times. He is also a UNICEF ambassador.
Born in Owerri, Nigeria, Kanu began his career at Nigerian league club Federation Works, before moving to Iwuanyanwu Nationale. 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. Kanu also came on as a sub in Ajax’s 1995 Champions League final win over AC Milan. In 1996, Ajax sold Kanu to Serie A side Internazionale for around $4.7 million. That summer he captained the Nigerian team that won gold at the Olympics, and scored two late goals in the semi-finals against powerhouses 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 year. However, soon after returning from the Olympics, Kanu underwent a medical examination at Inter, which revealed a serious heart defect; he underwent surgery in November 1996 to replace an aortic valve and did not return to his club until April 1997. In interviews, Kanu frequently cites his faith as a Christian, and has often mentioned 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 and whose work was expanded to provide aid for homeless children in 2008.