A legend on the pitch and off it, Nwankwo Kanu has traded in trophies with the Gunners for saving lives back in Africa

Last seen in an Arsenal shirt scoring a hat-trick for the Arsenal legends as part of a charity match, Kanu has been hard at work back in his home country. In a recent BBC interview, he talked openly about the problems people face in Africa, and what he’s doing to try and help the situation.

We have a lot of people who are suffering, and who have a lot of issues, and if we have the fame and we have the money, we are supposed to go back and make sure we help others.

Arsenal legend Kanu runs with the ball during the Charity football match between Arsenal Legends and Milan Glorie at The Emirates stadium in London on September 3, 2016. / AFP / Glyn KIRK

As someone who went through heart surgery himself in 1996, Kanu’s main aim is to try and tackle similar cardiac-related issues amongst the people of Africa. He told BBC that the dream was to build a hospital in five African countries.

At the moment, they have to fly children to India to get treatment, which, when you include flight costs and accommodation and so on, costs about four times more than treating the same child in their own country.

Their foundation has nonetheless helped with 538 heart operations in four different countries, but if they can get the funding to build the hospitals, this number could be much more. The problem is that right now they don’t have this funding.

So there are still obstacles to overcome, but for Kanu it is worth it. In his five years with Arsenal, he scored 43 goals, won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a Community Shield, but he says that for him, saving lives is even more important:

When you see people coming to you to say ‘thank you…I am one of the beneficiaries of the Kanu heart foundation’, it means a lot, it means more than winning trophies.

The two-time African footballer of the year has had plenty of success in football, let’s hope he’s just as successful in this new venture.