Kanu Nwankwo, one of Africa’s greatest footballers turns 43 today. The Super Eagles legend is one of the brightest talents to have come out of Africa.
— Kanu Nwankwo (@papilokanu) July 31, 2019
Though not blessed with the physicality that most footballers are known for, what he lacks in physicality, he makes it up with his creative thinking, goalscoring skills and his ability to read the game quickly.
Kanu started his career with the defunct Iwuanyanwu Nationale before moving to Europe where he signed with Ajax in Holland. He won the Champions League, three Eredivisie titles and the UEFA Super Cup before Italian side, Inter Milan snapped him up in 1996.
However, his career at Inter almost came to an abrupt end after medical test showed he had a serious heart defect. He underwent surgery to correct the defect but he did not get much of game time with the Nerazzurri and was sold to Arsenal who took a chance on him.
It was at Arsenal he got worldwide fame, winning two Premier League titles and also two FA Cups. He left the Gunners in 2005 joining another Premier League side West Brom. His England journey ended with Portsmouth where he won the FA Cup with them in 2008, scoring in the semi-final and final.
On the international scene, he made his debut for Nigeria’s senior national team in 1994 and went on to earn 87 caps for the country, scoring 12 goals.
As a celebration of his big day, Soccernet takes a look at some of Kanu’s greatest moments.
Chelsea vs Arsenal ( October 23, 1999): In what was one of the greatest games in Premier League history, Chelsea were just 15 minutes away from securing the three points after goals from Tore Andre Flo and Dan Petrescu had put them in a comfortable position.
But the game turned around as Kanu scored one of the fastest hat-tricks including a memorable third goal that drew the popular phrase ” Kanu believe it” to give Arsenal the unlikeliest of wins.
Nigeria vs Brazil ( Olympics, July 31, 1996): The Dream team was starring at a semifinal exit as Brazil took control of the semifinal clash between the two sides at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. Flavio Conceicao had put the Selecao ahead before a Roberto Carlos own levelled for Nigeria.
But goals from Bebeto and Conceicao put Brazil ahead once again. The Selecao were just 12 minutes away from the final until Ikpeba put one back for Nigeria in 78th minute. The drama will be completed as Kanu scored a brace in 90th minute and third minute of extra time to secure a famous win for Nigeria.
Nigeria vs Cameroon (AFCON, February 8, 2004): Although Kanu did not score in this particular game, it was his vital pass that ensured Nigeria will get one over their perennial rivals. The Indomitable Lions took the lead in the opening thirty minutes through Samuel Eto, but Okocha got Nigeria levelled with a well-taken free-kick just before the break.
The game’s winning goal will come in the second half through John Utaka who finished off following a brilliant through ball from Papillo himself.
Arsenal vs Tottenham ( Premier League, May 5, 1999): Arsenal went into the match against their North London rivals, knowing they can’t afford to drop any points. The gunners took the lead through Emmanuel Petit before Nicolas Anelka added a second. Darren Anderton pulled one back for Spurs.
However, Kanu ensured the gunners will secure the maximum points by scoring the third in the 85th minute. And it was a thing of beauty from the lanky forward. He received a ball from Patrick Viera before flicking it over Luke Young who must have wondered what happened to him, to fire past Ian Walker in Spurs goal.
The goal was so good that former Arsenal captain, Martin Keown called it his favourite moment in the history of North London derby. “There was a sublime arrogance about that goal. It showed the difference in quality between the two sides at that time.” Keown said
Portsmouth vs Cardiff ( FA Cup Final, May 17, 2008):
After scoring the lone goal in the semifinal victory over former club West Brom, Kanu was also the hero again as his lone goal secured Portsmouth the FA Cup for the first time since 1939.