Two-time CAF African Footballer of the Year Nwankwo Kanu was at the headquarters of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Organising Committee (OC) this week to discuss his potential involvement in helping South Africa 2010 go off with a bang.
The Portsmouth striker was taking time out following Nigeria's CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Lesotho, for which the Super Eagles had been preparing at a base camp in their opponents' neighbouring nation, South Africa.
During his meeting with the OC, Kanu received a full briefing from its CEO, Danny Jordaan, on the progress being made in preparing for the tournament and expressed strong interest in becoming involved in the African Legacy Programme and supporting FIFA in its unwavering commitment to African football.
"However they want to use Kanu, they can use me," he told FIFA.com. I am just trying to help where I can."
An African legacy
Kanu has already seen the impact made by FIFA programmes such as Futuro, the GOAL project and the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), and sees the African Legacy programme as crucial to building on the progress already made. This particular initiative aims to ensure that South Africa and the continent as a whole enjoys a positive social legacy as a direct result of hosting the FIFA World Cup™, while also helping facilitate the development of more players as gifted and successful as Kanu.
"I think this World Cup will show what Africa is made of and show off the African continent as a whole and how beautiful it is," enthused the Nigeria star. "This is not a South African World Cup - it is the whole of Africa hosting the whole of the world."
In addition to volunteering his assistance in any area in which his support could be of benefit, Kanu also discussed the possibility of involving his own charity, the Kanu Heart Foundation, in the African Legacy Programme. In 1996, the then Internazionale striker underwent open-heart surgery to repair a faulty heart valve and, inspired by the experience, he went on to found a charitable foundation that has since helped almost 1,000 African children travel abroad for life-saving operations.
'I have no doubt we will qualify'
On the field, of course, Kanu needs no introduction. Renowned for the flair and charisma with which he plays, the in-form Portsmouth forward can already reflect on having won some of the game's most sought-after titles, such as the UEFA Champions League with Ajax, the English Premier League with Arsenal, and both the FIFA U-17 World Championship and Olympic Football Tournament in the green of Nigeria.
There is, however, one glaring omission from his trophy cabinet: a FIFA World Cup. Nigeria's failure to qualify for Germany 2006 denied the 31-year-old a third crack at landing the game's ultimate prize, but that has only served to increase his desire to ensure that the Super Eagles are invited to the party when the FIFA World Cup pays its first-ever visit to Africa in 2010.
"First we have to qualify, but I have no doubt we will do that," he declared confidently. "And because it is in Africa, I think we will be a force to be reckoned with."
The 2010 FIFA World Cup is certainly benefiting from a great deal of backing from the cream of African football fraternity. Already, five former African Footballers of the Year - Kalusha Bwalya, Roger Milla. Moustapha Hadji, Abedi Pele and George Weah - are actively involved in preparing for and promoting the tournament, and with Kanu now also coming on board, South Africa 2010 could hardly want for a better calibre of support.