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Nwankwo Kanu - On a Mission from God

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Kanu's football acheivements are remarkable. He made the move to Europe from his native Nigeria and has overcome heart surgery. He now plans to give a little back to his home country.
Extravagantly gifted, with an eye for the unexpected, Nwankwo Kanu is what commentators fondly call a 'crowd pleaser'. The raw facts of Kanu's career are astounding. A championship winner in his native Nigeria at the age of 16, three more titles (in three years) followed by his move to Dutch team Ajax Amsterdam. In 1995, Kanu also in featured in Ajax's European Champions league winning team.
The following year Kanu ensured legendary status in his homeland and throughout Africa, by captaining his side to victory in the Olympic Final against Argentina, having already scored twice in the semi-final to beat Brazil 4-3. Nigeria's favourite son was named African Player of the Year in 1996. He would receive that accolade again in 1999, but in the period between those two triumphs, Kanu's life was devastated.
After a move to Inter Milan his new club's doctor discovered a defective aortic valve in Kanu's heart. After examinations by three of Italy's leading heart specialists he was told that he would never play football again. However Kanu refused to accept the opinions of the medical experts. "I knew I had this God given talent" he said, "and that I would get the chance to prove myself again".
Kanu endured four and a half hours of life-threatening open heart surgery at the Cleveland Hospital, Ohio USA and a prolonged convalesence while his footballing future hung in the balance. Miraculously he returned to action (making his Inter debut) nearly 18 months after the initial diagnosis. However, many at Inter remained sceptical of his physical condition and it took a move to the English club Arsenal to re-ignite Kanu's career.
Serie A's loss was the Premiership's gain as Arsenal's fans thrilled to Kanu's outrageously sublime skills and a seemingly endless parade of magnificent goals. Since 1999, Arsenal's superstar striker Kanu has revealed that he has a new goal in his life - to build five specialist hospitals in Africa. The Highbury hero is on a mission to help more than a million heart sufferers - not just in his homeland Nigeria but throughout the entire African continent, and right here in the UK as well.
In 1999, he announced the launch of the Kanu Nwankwo Heart Foundation "in the appreciation of the wonderful work of God in saving my life during the period when I underwent heart surgery. I have gone through the pains and agony of this heart problem and I see the Heart Foundation as my modest contribution towards the eradication and alleviation of heart related problems."


Mike Lee, April 2002


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