Football legend Kanu aims to kick polio out of Nigeria…

Public service announcement urges parents to immunize their children

NIGERIA’S soccer captain Nwankwo Kanu has two goals for 2010: he wants Nigeria to shine at the upcoming World Cup, and he wants to eradicate polio from Africa.

“I’ve scored many goals for my country,” the 33-year-old striker says in a series of Public Service Announcements now airing across Nigeria on radio and TV. “But there’s still one goal I want to score: I want to kick polio out of Nigeria.”

Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has never stopped polio transmission. However, repeated immunization campaigns of improving quality have the country on the cusp of making history: this year, only one case of polio has been reported across Nigeria. And if Nigeria can eradicate polio, Africa can quickly become polio-free.

In the PSAs, Kanu appeals to parents across Nigeria to help consign polio to memory. “Most of the countries in Africa have kicked out polio,” he says, “let’s do the same. Be a good parent. Do what I have done and immunize your child against polio.”

Kanu, who has played with Ajax in Holland, Inter Milan in Italy, and Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth in the English Premier League, is the most decorated African footballer in history, having won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the Premier League title, the FA Cup and having captained Nigeria to Olympic Gold. Individually, he has also won two African Player of the Year awards.

Although coming to the end of his international career – this will be his fourth World Cup – Kanu remains a hugely influential figure in Nigeria, both for his exploits on the field and for his work as patron of the Kanu Heart Foundation and his role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Kanu did not hesitate when asked to participate in Nigeria’s fight against polio. “I understand I’m a role model,” Kanu said. “As footballers, children look up to us. If this can help more children get immunized against polio, then that’s a good thing.”

In 2009, Nigeria reported 388 cases of polio. This year, as of 24 March 2010, it has reported only one.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative wishes to thank Queens Park Rangers Football Club and the Mittal family for making Loftus Road Stadium available for filming.

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