The former two-time African Player of the Year speaks exclusively to RT about Nigeria’s chances in the World Cup, Mo Salah’s fitness and why you should come to Russia to fully experience the tournament.
As a player Nwankwo Kanu has won practically everything in the domestic game. He is one of just a handful of players who can claim Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup medals as his own, so it is probably fair to say that the former Arsenal man knows exactly what it takes to succeed at the highest of levels of the sport.
Kanu, now 41-years-old, is in Russia ahead of next week’s World Cup kick-off and spoke to RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky about this summer’s tournament, beginning with the chances of his native Nigeria.
“As the years go by we keep growing and planning, getting more experience,” Kanu said of the team he represented 87 times. “I believe we have the best young players in the World Cup, in terms of age. They are doing well. The hunger is there and this is the first time that they have a peaceful camp, in terms of everything [being] well organized.
“[Odion] Igalho, Alex Iwobi. There is a lot of them that you can mention. We don’t really call them star players but all round we believe they are a good team.”
Mo Salah, a fellow winner of the African Player of the Year award, is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League Final last month and while he has been included in the Egyptian squad list, his participation in the competition is still unclear - something which Kanu says isn’t just an issue for Egypt, but for the entire continent of Africa.
“It is not good news for Africa and I believe every African, no matter where they are, we are very, very sad because we expected him to do what he did with his club Liverpool, to do the same magic for his country in the World Cup,” Kanu explains.
“I wish he will play and, if he does, he is still going to do what he does but I don’t know if he [misses] a couple of weeks, if he is still going to be the same type of player. Is he going to miss some training [sessions]? But good footballers will stay good footballers.”
Kanu, who holds third place in Nigeria’s all-time appearances list, competed at three separate World Cups, something which he says guided the entirety of his football career. Playing for his club, he explains, was a preamble to pulling on the national team jersey in the world’s most famous tournament.
“The best players in the world have to come to the World Cup. For every player, that is a dream. For me as a player I always look forward to the World Cup because it is every four years, it is not something that comes every year.
“I would tell [Nigerian fans] to come. It’s World Cup fever. The flavor is there, the flow is there. Everybody is happy, you socialize, you meet people from different countries.
“It is not only Nigeria, I would tell the whole world to come and enjoy football. Football brings up peace, love, unity, The game of football is something that people enjoy, so my advice would be to make sure you don’t sit at home and [come to Russia] to enjoy it.”