NAIROBI, April 4 – Former Arsenal and Nigeria forward Nwankwo Kanu has slammed the high turnover of coaches at the Super Eagles technical bench, disclosing that it has contributed to the team’s failure to qualify for the past two consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.
Nigeria, who are slowly losing their African football glory, bowed out of the 2017 AFCON qualifiers after going down 1-0 away to Egypt despite having high rated players like Arsenal sensational teenager, Alex Iwobi, Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, Watford’s Odion Ighalo, Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Moses from West Ham and CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa.
The team is currently under the tutelage of former international Samson Siasia, who took over temporarily after another former player Sunday Oliseh resigned, citing breach of contract from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
The 2013 African Champions has had a rotation of three tacticians since former defender Stephen Keshi was shown the door last year and Kanu, who is in Kenya for a four-day visit, has expressed his disappointment with the NFF.
“It’s not going the way we want and it’s because the Federation has a lot of problems. The quicker they settle down, the more there is peace, unity and I believe it will be good for the players.
“Why do they keep on changing coaches from Keshi to Oliseh now to Siasia it’s not healthy and no matter how the players are good it will affect them in one way or the other,” The 1996 Olympic Gold medalist outlined.
Nigeria’s failure to qualify for a second straight Africa Cup of Nations has sparked fears about the country’s chances of featuring in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
-Iwobi will succeed-
Decorated Kanu, who won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1994-95 season, has tipped fellow countryman and teenager Alex Iwobi to succeed at English Premier League side Arsenal after the 19-year-old sparkled in the Gunners last two matches.
Iwobi was instrumental in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Watford, scoring the Gunners’ second goal as they thrashed their London rivals.
“I treasure Arsenal of all the clubs that I have featured in my career because after undergoing my heart operation, Arsene Wenger signed me and it was like a gamble, people doubted if I will make it but I proved them wrong and that’s why the club is special to me.
“Iwobi is talented and his touches are fantastic and that’s what you need in a player, he is also not afraid in his age. I know they talk a lot with Austin Okocha because they are related but the first time I met him, I encouraged him and the good thing about him is he wants to learn and with that kind of a player sky is the limit,” Kanu, who won two Premier Leagues and two FA Cups with Arsenal during his time of play affirmed.
The 19-year-old, Iwobi has now made 15 appearances in all competitions this term and is severely putting Theo Walcott’s Euro 2016 place in jeopardy by keeping him on the bench.
Kanu’s best moments at Arsenal remains his famous hat-trick he scored against Chelsea in fifteen minutes to turn a 2–0 deficit into a 3–2 victory during the 1999-2000 season.
“We were two goals down and we had to make the come-back with fifteen minutes left. Chelsea was too strong that nobody had gone there and picked maximum points. In the first goal, immediately I received the ball, two defenders closed on me so I had to lift the ball to find space and score.
“The second goal, Thierry Henry really helped me because he had to block Marcel Desailly for me to have time to shoot. The third goal was spectacular and I remember Celestine Babayaro, who used to play for Chelsea, had told them to watch out on me but it was bad luck to them.
“First, it was a bad pass and I had to chase the ball that I intercepted from the defender and luckily the keeper rushed off his line and I was able to dribble past him from the tight angle and score. You really need to have the skill for you to do that,” the 39-year-old two-time African Footballer of the Year described.
Kanu, nicknamed Papilo was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in August 1996 while playing for Inter Milan and it’s for this reason that he holds Inter close to his heart especially the then club President Massimo Moratti.
“When I had the heart problem while playing for Inter Milan the club President Massimo Moratti did not stop my contract instead he paid for my operation and treatment bills so that’s why the club is important to me,” Kanu, who played for Inter from 1996-1999, stated.
It’s from his condition that saw him start the Kanu Heart Foundation July 21, 2000 with the primary aim of “putting back smiles” to the faces of Nigerians and the Africans children, who are suffering from various heart defects.
During his tour in Kenya, the humble God fearing Kanu paid a visit to Kenyatta National Hospital cardiac patients Monday and suggested that he will work with current Kenyan football stars like Victor Wanyama and retired the likes of Musa Otieno to organize a testimonial match to raise funds for the setting up of a patient support programme.
“As Kanu Heart Foundation we shall do our bit but with the likes of Victor Wanyama playing for Southampton, we can do a lot together to help our people who are suffering in this hospital.
“I will be the first one to play in such a match and can bring along other like-minded current or former players to support this cause. We have to put pressure on ourselves to do good and support,” Kanu said.”
“Since we started the Foundation, we have had more than 500 operations, meaning we have saved all those lives that could have been lost because it is very expensive and we can do more using initiatives like this one.
“After being operated in India and feeling the pain, when I was sitting at home I was asking myself what of the less privileged who don’t have money to go for checkups leave alone operations, that motivated me to establish the foundation.”
Kanu grew up from a humble family and he has called on Kenyan footballers, who have succeeded not to forget their roots but should strive to give back to the society.
“It was difficult growing up from the streets, I was playing bare foot, I had only one short but all the same as I keep on telling the young people they have to be focused and believe they are going to make it in life. It’s not going to be easy and there is no short cuts,” Kanu advised the upcoming footballers.