Former Super Eagles’ captain, Nwankwo Kanu (Papilo) has been named by Confederation of African Football (CAF) among seven legends of the round leather game as ambassadors for this year’s Cup of Nations.
While Kanu is named among the legends, current skipper of the Nigerian side, John Mikel Obi has been cited among three players who are back in Egypt, after first playing there 13 years ago, at the 2006 edition of the continental soccer spectacle.
Mikel will enjoy veteran’s status at Egypt 2019, while Kanu will play a ceremonial role off the pitch, after CAF named him along with six others for symbolic duties during the competition, which commences this Friday and lasts till July 19.
Named as ambassadors of Egypt 2019 along with Kanu are Mahmoud El Khateeb of Egypt, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, both from Cote d’Ivoire, Rabeh Madjer from Algeria and El Hadji Diouf from Senegal.
CAF’s citation for Kanu stated: “Papilo, as he is fondly called featured six AFCON editions from 2000 to 2010. The highlight of his career was his coronation as CAF Player of the Year in 1996 and 1999.”
Incidentally, for this year’s edition of the continental soccer showpiece, which will hold in the Egyptian cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia and Suez, Eagles’ current captain, Mikel is one of only three players who are back in Egypt, 13 years after they featured at the 2006 edition of the soccer showpiece in the same North African country.
In recognizing Mikel’s iconic status at Egypt 2019, CAF noted that the Eagles’ skipper will rank high among the crème de la crème” of African football, as stars from 24 nations gather to show their talents.
He returns to The Land of The Pharaohs after missing an international friendly in Asaba against the team that were crowned champions for the fifth time in 2006, and went on to add two more trophies afterwards.
Mikel and only two other players, being Carlos Kameni of Cameroon and Tresor Mputu of DR Congo, survived into this year’s edition from the roll call of players in the various squads of 2006 squads.
He and the other two are back in Egypt, after keeping their places with their respective national teams for 13 years, since when the continental football showpiece was last held in The Land of The Pharaohs.
The trio all had different fortunes back then, as Kameni’s Cameroon and Mputu’s DR Congo crashed out in the quarter finals, while Mikel went all the way to the semi-finals with Nigeria, but then ended the race in third place, behind eventual champions, Egypt and runner-ups, Cote d’Ivoire, who beat the Eagles in a thrilling last four clash.
CAF’s citation for Mikel read: “(32) was a part of English giants Chelsea squad in 2006.
“He joined China based Tianjin Teda in 2017 before returning to England with second tier Middlesbrough last January.
“Obi Mikel then lifted the cup with the Super Eagles in their last AFCON appearance in 2013.”