Former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu says the recent death of Ivory Coast’s Cheick Tiote should be a wake up call to act over heart problems in Africa.
Tiote, who was 30, died earlier this month after collapsing as he trained his Chinese club Beijing Enterprises.
Kanu battled heart problems during his career says it is time to address heart related problems on and off the field.
“I’m talking to friends so we can do something to create awareness to try to help children in Africa,” Kanu said.
“Tiote’s death was not good news. It’s not the first time it is happening.
“We lost Marc-Vivien Foe. He died and nothing was done. Tiote is gone and nothing is being done.”
Kanu was sidelined for nine months just after winning Olympic gold in 1996 when doctors at his Italian club Inter Milan’s found a heart defect.
He was allowed to resume his career after a successful operation in Ohio in the United States.
The former Arsenal striker had further heart surgery in 2014.
The 40-year-old, who also played for Ajax Amsterdam and Portsmouth, is planning to build a $17 million dollar cardiac hospital in Abuja, Nigeria.
He also wants to build similar hospitals in east, north and southern Africa.
“One man can not do everything. What happened to Tiote is a lesson to us all. We can’t let it go on like this,” Kanu told BBC Sport.
“We should talk more about it, information needs to get out there because the problem is huge.”
“Our dream is to build a hospital in Nigeria and four other countries in Africa.
“The funds have been the issue but if we can make it happen it’s going to help a lot because right now we are taking the kids to India and it cost a lot.”
So far the Kanu Heart Foundation has facilitated 538 successful operations in England, India, Nigeria and Israel.
The foundation office in Lagos, Nigeria receives eight to ten calls everyday from people seeking help to treat heart related problems.
Lagos University student, Enitan Adesola is one of the very first beneficiaries of the help offered by Kanu.
“I have to thank him very much for taking a big decision to help me because you can’t just not know someone and try to help that person,” she said.
“He’s been like a father to me, like a mother, he’s just been great to me. I am really grateful.”
To raise the funds for the hospital project Kanu is bringing together his team-mates at Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Portsmouth for two charity matches to be played in Lagos and Johannesburg later this year.
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