Sunday, August 1, 2010

1 August 1976 - Kanu Can Do

On 1 August 1976, future Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu was born in the city of Owerri. He would go on to become the most decorated African footballer in history.

Kanu made his professional debut in 1991 at the age of 16 for Nigerian First Division club Federation Works, scoring 20 goals in 35 appearances before moving to fellow Nigerian club Iwaunyanwu Nationale, now known as Heartland FC, in 2002. He won the Nigerian Premier League title in 1993, his first silverware.

He rose to international prominence in 1993, when he signed with Dutch side Ajax. There, he won three consecutive Eredivisie titles (1994, 1995, 1996) and the UEFA Champions League (1995). He left Ajax for Inter in the summer of 1996, after captaining Nigeria to the Olympic gold medal - a feat that earned him the 1996 African Footballer of the Year award. But a defective aortic valve limited his playing time with Inter and he moved to Arsenal in February 1999.

He resumed his successful streak at Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles (2002 and 2004) and two FA Cups (2002, 2003). But the emergence of Thierry Henry pushed Kanu to the bench and, dissatisfied with his reduced playing time, he moved to West Bromwich Albion in 2004. He spent two seasons with West Brom, then moved to Portsmouth, where he again raised the FA Cup in 2008.

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