Nigerian football star Nwankwo Kanu has had quite a week. Just two days after scoring Portsmouth’s winning goal in last Saturday’s FA Cup final victory over Cardiff, Kanu was back on the pitch raising funds for the Kanu Heart Foundation, a charity that helps send African children to Israel for life-saving heart operations.
Launched in 2000 by Kanu — whose own career was saved by heart surgery — the charity pays for children with heart problems to undergo surgery overseas, notably at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Tel Aviv. Such a programme is sponsored by Israeli voluntary organisation Save a Child’s Heart, which houses the children before and after their operation. Kanu, 31, tells People: “Life immediately after surgery was the most challenging time for me. I prayed a lot and continually thanked God. I believe in prayer and the power of prayer and I looked to God for direction.”
The Kanu Heart Foundation began by sending children to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, but in order to provide more children with the help they need, the charity turned to Israel and India. Earlier this month, the 300th child was operated on. Kanu says he is hoping to build hospitals in Africa. “However, we have a long waiting list, so when we raise funds, we do not usually keep the money for the building programme, because people on the waiting list may die.”
Monday’s charity match between Friends of Kanu — managed by ex-Arsenal captain Tony Adams — and a Portsmouth XI, managed by Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp, took place at Fratton Park. Lomana Lualua, Emmanuel Adebayor and Anton Ferdinand were among those who played.