Nwankwo Kanu

Top African stars gathered in Lagos June 11 for a tribute match in honor of Nwankwo Kanu, Nigeria’s two-time African Footballer of the Year.  The 34-year-old Kanu takes a bow from soccer as Nigeria’s most decorated footballer ever.

The tall, lanky striker captained Nigeria’s gold medal-winning soccer team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  At the club level, Kanu won several big honors, including a UEFA Champions League title with the Dutch club Ajax; a UEFA Cup crown with the Italian club Inter Milan; two English Premier League championships with Arsenal; and three FA Cup Winners Medals – one with Portsmouth and two with Arsenal.

At the international level, Kanu’s 86 appearances for Nigeria’s national team, “The Super Eagles,” ties him with the late Muda Lawal as the most capped Nigerian players of all-time.  Kanu scored 13 goals for “The Super Eagles” and played at three World Cups: France 1998, Japan-South Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010.

Off the pitch, Kanu should also be saluted for his humanitarian endeavors.  Shortly after winning the Olympic gold medal in 1996, he was diagnosed with a serious heart defect and underwent surgery in the USA.  This trying experience led to him founding the Kanu Heart Foundation, which helps young African children with heart problems.  Nwankwo Kanu also helps African children in his role as a UNICEF ambassador.