How old exactly is Arsenal legend Nwankwo Kanu?

The Nigerian was the star of the Arsenal legend team’s 4-2 win over AC Milan.

How old is Nwankwo Kanu
King Kanu Nwankwo Kanu playing for Arsenal. Image Getty

Nwankwo Kanu was the star in Arsenal Legends 4-2 victory over AC Milan Legends at the Emirates, seemingly rolling back the years to defy his age with a match winning hat-trick.

But has Kanu been defying his age all along? Rumours have long circulated claiming the former Arsenal and Portsmouth player is far older than he cares to admit.

And while he starred in the semi-competitive clash between former players from the Gunners and the Rossoneri, the jury is definitely still out on whether Kanu is the 40 his Wikipedia page claims.

Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Red Heat

Harry Redknapp talking about Kanu's time at Portsmouth.

Kanu’s manager at Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp, loved to have a good joke about the Nigerian’s real age. However one story, which followed a 4-0 victory over Middlesbrough in which Kanu scored twice, sticks in the memory as evidence of the African being a little older than he claims.

“We got back home to the airport and we were sitting while waiting for the baggage to come. Suddenly he [Kanu] could not get up. His body had given up. We had to lift him into one of those wheelchairs.

“No matter how the physios tried, his body would not straighten up. They lifted him up into the chair and wheeled him out the airport! He had to leave his car there and he could not drive. The physio had to drive him back. His body had gone.

“How old is he? 49? I don’t know.”

Go West

Nigeria Olympics 1996
Super Eagles Nigeria's gold medal-winning team at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Part of the Nigeria “Under-23” team alongside Kanu that won Olympic Gold back in 1996, Taribo West’s career was dogged by dodgy hairstyles and allegations he was far older than he claimed to be.

In 2002, for example, West moved from Derby County to Partizan Belgrade but it was not long before then-club president Zarko Zecevic began to grow suspicious.

“He joined us saying he was 28. We only later found out he was 40, but he was still playing well so I don’t regret having him on the team,” he told the Mail in 2013.

West is currently listed as 42 on Wikipedia but, on the basis of Zecevic’s claims, he could be closer to the ripe old age of 54.

Scanning Badly

Nigeria also have a track record when it comes to problems of this kind.

Back in the summer of 2013, the Super Eagles landed themselves in trouble after routine MRI wrist scanning revealed several of their Under-17 squad were over the required age.

That’s not even the first time either: prior to the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, the Super Eagles dropped 15 players from their squad just days after announcement by FIFA stating that new measures were being introduced to assess age. That’s only the half of it though…

The Official Lines

Anthony Kojo Williams of the Nigerian Football Federation.

There are also the comments of ex-Nigeria Football Federation chief Anthony Kojo Williams who, when asked whether the Super Eagles had questions to answer over falsifying player ages replied, quite candidly: “We always cheat. It’s a fact.”

After their exit from the 2010 African Cup of Nations, meanwhile, former national team doctor and Nigerian football federation board member Ken Anugweje stoked the fires further by telling The Guardian: “Our boys are old, we are paying the price for age cheating.” Awkward.

Falsified Documents

Speaking to the Huffington Post, blogger George Onmonya, meanwhile, revealed the ease with which players, including the likes of Kanu and West, could potentially obtain and falsify important official documents in Nigeria: “You can walk into any immigration office in Nigeria today, forge documents at the nearby business centre, change your name, place of birth, date of birth, pay 7,000-10,000 naira instead of the official price of about 5,500 for an international passport and within hours you have completed the whole process.”

How old is Nwankwo Kanu? The Verdict

If Kanu has falsified his age, then the common consensus appears to suggest he is roughly nine years older than stated online, making him the ripe age of 49. Unfortunately, unless the Nigerian decides otherwise, there is no way of proving this.

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.