We are now a month removed from the death of Ivorian footballer Cheick Tiote, but former Nigerian striker Kanu Nwankwo is taking the anniversary to remind people about the importance of monitoring for cardiac disease. Tiote collapsed and died during training for his Chinese club, Beijing Enterprises, despite being only 30 years old. Beijing Enterprises’ official investigation over the death of Tiote has not been released, but speculation has been rampant that it was due to an undetected heart condition.
This situation reminded many of the Marc-Vivien Foe collapse in 2003, who died from a heart issue suffered during a FIFA Confederations Cup match. Nwankwo also seems to associate the two, saying in an interview with BBC Sport, “Tiote’s death was not good news. It’s not the first time it is happening. We lost Marc-Vivien Foe. He died and nothing was done. Tiote is gone and nothing is being done. One man can not do everything. What happened to Tiote is a lesson to us all. We can’t let it go on like this.”
Because of the issue he perceives in all of Africa, Nwankwo has founded the Kanu Heart Foundation. Nwankwo is currently planning to build five hospitals with cardiac specialization across the continent. “Our dream is to build a hospital in Nigeria and four other countries in Africa,” Nwankwo says. However, he says that funding has been a recent issue due to doctors having to receive training in India.
Nwankwo has personal experience with these issues, as his career was momentarily threatened because of a heart defect early in his career. Despite already having won an Olympic gold medal with the Nigerian national team by that time, a medical checkup with Inter Milan in 1997 detected an anomaly that required heart surgery. Fortunately, the surgery was successful and he went on to play for Arsenal later in his career.