Nigerian football fans, particularly those with special interest in the the Super Eagles, were confounded with the surprise announcement of Karl Ikeme yesterday to quit the game after a yearlong battle with acute leukeamia. In announcing his early retirement just before a training session with his teammates at the Molineux base of Wolves Hampton Football Club, the 32-year-old goalkeeper said his decision came after consultations with medical experts having been diagnosed with acute Leukemia when he returned abnormal blood results during pre-season in July 2017.
This was followed by the fact that he had last month announced that he was in complete remission from acute leukaemia after what was termed ‘a tough year and intense chemotherapy’. With Wolves managing to reclaim their top-flight status in English football after a few years in the lower cadre, Nigerian football fans – most of whom are known for their keen interest in the Premier League – had hoped to see Ikeme in action in the about-tocommence football season but this has now become impossible as the charismatic goalkeeper stepped aside from the game that gave him fame.
Ikeme is among the very first set of ‘oyinbo’ players that are starring regularly in the Super Eagles under German coach Gernot Rohr who has attracted a host of Nigerian players of white and Nigerian parentage. Though he made just 10 appearances for Nigeria, he displayed so much promise to calm frayed nerves of Nigerians who could not come to terms with the exit of the calm and dependable Vincent Enyeama, who took control of the Super Eagles goalkeeping role for over a decade. For Ikeme, who, among other clubs, also had stints with Leicester City, QPR and Middlesbrough, it’s a case of the soul is willing but the body cannot go further as he said on Wolves’ website. “I spoke with the doctor and he suggested I should retire, because of the toll the treatment has taken on my body,” Ikeme said. “He thinks it’s what is best for me and I can’t really risk trying to come back.
My health is the priority. “I want to be here for my children, family and friends. In the grand scheme of things with my life in danger, it’s the minimum price I have to pay to spend the rest of my time with my family.” Ikeme, who was registered as Nigeria’s 24th player at the Russia 2018 World Cup, made his debut for Nigeria in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in September 2015 and took command of the goalkeeping role till the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Zambia in Ndola, a game which set Nigeria on the road to Russia 2018 following a 2-1 triumph.
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