KANU: Goodwill Ambassador for Nigerian Children
“As a Goodwill Ambassador, I have the opportunity to work on broader issues that affect many Nigerian children.”
In June 2005, Nwankwo Kanu, the famous Nigerian football star and Captain of the National team, became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Popularly known as Kanu or “Papillo”, the twice winner of the African Footballer of the Year award said he was delighted at the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the situation of children in Nigeria as he had already been working to help children with heart problems through the Kanu Heart Foundation.
In October the same year, Kanu supported the launch of the campaign ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’ by recording and appearing in a special video message. He also called on the Nigerian public to reach out to children affected by HIV and AIDS in an address he made to the crowd packed into the National stadium, just minutes before the Nigerian National team, the Super Eagles, played the World Cup qualifying match against Zimbabwe. Kanu’s speech was broadcasted on two giant electronic boards and was given a standing ovation by the crowd just as he rejoined his team mates to start the match.
Goodwill Ambassadors work hard for UNICEF, fitting in field trips and UNICEF events into their already hectic schedules. The Ambassadors raise the profile of UNICEF’s work to new audiences all over the world and help UNICEF to bring about change to help children.
Using his fame and popularity, Kanu participates in various UNICEF advocacy, fundraising and programme efforts for Nigeria’s children. In 2006, he visited a project for orphans and vulnerable children run near Enugu by the NGO Mewood and supported by UNICEF. He also took part in the celebration of the Day of the African Child in Lagos. Later on, he appeared at a corporate football tournament organised to raise funds for the children and AIDS campaign.
More recently, in January 2008, Kanu and some other top footballers came together to help UNICEF raise money for quality education for all children across Africa. The campaign, a partnership between UNICEF and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), took place during the high-profile MTN Africa Cup of Nations, GHANA 2008– Africa’s biggest international football competition.
In a public service announcement, Kanu spoke about the importance of education, saying: ‘Football I love, but it’s education that makes a real difference in kids’ future’. He urged the public to support UNICEF by donating to this campaign through text messages.
Kanu and other popular African athletes helped drive home the message that quality education benefits children – especially girls – and children need to stay in school and gain the knowledge and confidence they need to pursue their dreams.
Funds raised from the campaign are being directed to providing learning and teaching materials for primary schools across Nigeria, supporting teacher training activities, improving on and producing curriculum materials for kindergarten and early primary school children.
Kanu won the African Footballer of the Year Award twice, in 1996 and 1999. Before joining his current club, Portsmouth, he played for West Bromwich Albion of the English Premier League, Ajax Amsterdam, Inter Milan and Arsenal. He is also the captain of the Nigerian National football team - the Super Eagles.