Past Nigerian Football Stars : Kanu
Nwankwo Christian Nwosu Kanu was born on the 1st day of August 1976 in Owerri, Imo, Nigeria. His surname, Nwankwo, means ‘Child born on Nkwo market day’ in the Igbo language. He was born to Mrs Susan, his mother and father, Mr Iheme Kanu who is a native of Okija in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, Nigeria.
Kanu grew up in Owerri, Nigeria alongside his brothers; (Christopher and Ogbonna Kanu) and stepbrothers; Anderson Gabolalmo Kanu and Henry Isaac.
Nigeria, Kanu began his career at Nigerian league club Federation Works, before moving to Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1992-1993).
After a notable performance at the U-17 World Championships he was signed by Dutch Eredivisie AFC Ajax (1993-1996) 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 Inter Milan 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.
Arsenal (1999 – 2004)
In February 1999, after just twelve games and one goal for Inter, Kanu was signed by Arsenal for approximately £4.15 million. He made his debut for Arsenal, against Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
Kanu was named African Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1999. In the 1999-2000 season he scored 17 times in 50 matches for the Gunners, including a hat-trick in fifteen minutes against Chelsea to turn a 2–0 deficit into a 3–2 victory. In August 2001, Arsenal rejected a bid from Fulham of around £7m for Kanu.
Kanu then won the 2003 FA Cup with Arsenal. Along with other famous players, such as Henry and Robert Pirès, Kanu is a member of the “Invincibles”, the Arsenal side that finished the 2003–04 season of the Barclays Premier League undefeated. He played 197 games for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals. In 2008, Kanu was voted 13th in the “Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players” poll.
West Bromwich Albion (2004 – 2006)
Kanu started as a regular for the club, making his debut in a 1–1 draw away at Blackburn Rovers on 14 August 2004. He scored his first goal for Albion on 18 September 2004, an 88th-minute equalizer in a 1–1 home draw against Fulham.
One of the most memorable games of the 2005–06 season for Kanu came with the visit of his former club Arsenal to The Hawthorns on 15 October 2005. Philippe Senderos put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute, but Kanu equalised shortly before half time. West Brom went on to win the match 2–1 with a spectacular strike from Darren Carter. It was their first home win over Arsenal since 1973, and the first time that they had come from behind to win a Premier League game.
Portsmouth (2004 – 2006)
Kanu was a free agent following his departure from West Brom, and he signed for Portsmouth on a one-year deal shortly before the start of the 2006–07season. Kanu made his debut for Portsmouth as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers on 19 August 2006, the opening day of the 2006–2007 Premier League season. Kanu finished the season as the top goalscorer for Portsmouth, with 12 goals altogether. He then signed a new one year deal with the club.
In his second season at Portsmouth, Kanu scored in both the FA Cup 1–0 semi-final win against West Bromwich Albion and the 1–0 win in the final against Cardiff City, earning him a third 2007-08 FA Cupwinner’s medal.
His first goal of the 2008–09 season put Portsmouth 2–0 up in their eventual 2–2 UEFA Cup draw with Italian club A.C. Milan. He later scored the winning goal against Bolton Wanderers, which ensured Pompey’s mathematical safety. It was his only Premier League goal of 2008–2009. He re-signed with Pompey in August 2010, with an eye on becoming a coach when he retired. Kanu signed a three-year deal and kept the number 27 shirt, but was not a regular starter throughout the course of the season and only managed two goals.
His honours include :