Stars light up Nwankwo Kanu testimonial match in Lagos

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Kanu testimonial ine-up
Several African football stars turned up for Kanu's testimonial in Lagos

Over 14,000 fans paid tribute to former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu during a lively testimonial game in Lagos.

The Portsmouth forward, a two-time African Player of the Year, was retiring from international football after 16 years.

Fans defied early rain to attend the star-studded game in which the Super Eagles beat a Rest of the World XI 3-1.

Samuel Eto'o, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sulley Muntari, Rigobert Song and Emmanuel Eboue all appeared.

The 34-year-old Kanu played for both sides and scored for the Super Eagles side that included Danny Shittu, Kalu Uche and Yakubu Ayegbeni.

Fittingly, it was Kanu who scored the opening goal of the game as he calmly beat Peterside Idah, the former South Africa-based goalkeeper.

In-form Nigeria striker Ikechukwu Uche made it 2-0 for the Super Eagles Stars to send the Lagos fans into raptures just before half-time.

Second-half substitute and self-confessed Kanu protégée, Emmanuel Adebayor, then stepped up the tempo of the game in the second-half to reduce the deficit with a cool finish.

As the World XI chased an equaliser, it was Uche put the game beoynd their reach with a thunderous long-range effort, after taking out three defenders to seal the victory.

"There's a time to start and a time to finish, it has been a fulfilling ride from day one," an emotional Kanu said after the match.

"I thank all the players who cut short their holidays from different places and the Nigerian fans for their endless love and support throughout my career."

The World XI , managed by Stephen Keshi and Jo Bonfrere included Jean Makoun, Khalilou Fadiga, Anthony Baffoe, Jay-Jay Okocha, Sammy Kuffour, George Boateng, Joseph Yobo, Taye Taiwo, Herman Hreidarsson and Obinna Nsofor.

Former Nigerian captain Kanu announced his retirement from international football at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in June 2010.

Reigning African Player of the Year Samuel Eto'o, who enjoyed adoration and applause from fans, was full of praise for the talented Kanu.

"Kanu is undoubtedly the most recognised, successful and talented footballer I have ever seen on the field," Eto'o said.

"It was not hard to honour him by travelling down because he is an icon of the African game and we must honour him.

"After playing against him, I was honoured and today I came here to show how much we respect and appreciate his achievement, inspiration, motivation and charitable gesture."

Former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor revealed that Kanu was is only hero when growing up and as a professional.

"I cannot hide the fact that I moulded my career in his image and it is obvious that he still my inspiration and hero as a footballer," he said.

As Kanu was helped off with a guard of honour and final lap of honour it was fitting tribute to one of the greats of the Nigerian and African game.

Other players, who turned out in support of the Nigerian were Michael Essien, Kolo Toure, Stephen Appiah, Kalusha Bwalya, John Utaka, Finidi George, Mutiu Adepoju, Obinna Nwaneri, Yakubu Ayegbeni, Elderson Echiejile, Onyekachi Okonkwo, Raphael Chukwu, Daniel Amokachi, Uche Okechukwu and Ogbonnaya Kanu.

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