Heart Defect Survivor Kanu Nwankwo Advises Football Stakeholders

Retired Nigerian footballer, Kanu Nwankwo who battled with heart defects has weighed in on Late Ivorian footballer Cheick Tiote’s death, which was also caused by a heart failure…

Legendary Nigerian footballer Kanu Nwankwo has weighed in on recurring heart failures attributed to many death cases among African footballers. The retired footballer has said that the recent death of the Ivorian footballer Cheick Tiote, should be a wake-up call to other players.

We cannot discuss the disturbing rate of heart-related malfunctions in football without mentioning Nigeria’s Kanu Nwankwo who bravely battled heart problems during his career.

Late Cheick Tiote died on June 5, 2017, in China during a training session with his club Beijing Enterprise. The 30-year-old was said to have suffered a cardiac arrest during the training, leading to his death.

Tiote’s death drew the attention of many to the peculiar problem of sudden heart failures plaguing the world of football, especially in Africa. It can be recalled that Tiote’s death came a month after Nigerian League star Azeez Saka, of local club Kwara United, passed away in a similar manner. These are just a few cases of cardiac arrests among African footballers.

Former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu, who also battled heart problems during his playing career has stressed on the need to take significant steps towards conquering the issue. Speaking on the issue to BBC Sport, Kanu Nwankwo expressed so much worry on the issue and also revealed plans for creating more awareness of heart-related problems.

Kanu Nwankwo during his interaction with BBC talked about his plans to build more hospitals in Nigeria and four other countries in Africa. The 40-year-old is looking at establishing hospitals in east, north and southern Africa. He is also planning to build a $17 million dollar cardiac hospital in Abuja, Nigeria.

The retired footballer, however, called for financial support from stakeholders as the projects cannot be carried out by one person.

More Hands Should Be on Deck

Kanu Nwankwo who also played for Ajax Amsterdam and Portsmouth frowned at the negligence of stakeholders over the high rate of heart defects among African footballers. According to him, although more needs to be done, it cannot be achieved only a few people.

What happened to Cheick Tiote he said should be a lesson which ought to motivate stakeholders into doing more to control the prevailing rate of heart failures among footballers.

Shortly after he won Olympic gold for Nigeria in 1996, Nigeria’s Kanu Nwankwo was sidelined for nine months when doctors at his Italian club Inter Milan’s found a heart defect. Kanu resumed after a successful heart surgery in Ohio in the United  States in 1997.

Following his recovery, he launched the Kanu Heart Foundation, a non-profit organisation designed to help children born with heart defects get the corrective heart surgeries that they need. The former Arsenal striker had another heart surgery in 2014.

Kanu Heart Foundation is a charity organisation that helps less privileged individuals who are suffering from various heart defects. The foundation is Kanu’s way of giving back to the society, especially after surviving the life-threatening defect. So far, the Kanu Heart Foundation has facilitated 538 successful operations in England, India, Nigeria and Israel.

Kanu is organising two charity matches later this year, between his team-mates at Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Portsmouth; to raise funds for the hospital project.

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