-Carl Ikeme Down With Acute Leukaemia
-Support Floods In For Eagles Goalkeeper
Nigerian soccer fans and lovers of the round leather game the world over are still in shock over news of the acute leukemia ailment that has struck Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Carl Onuoha Ikeme. In this special package, SportsDay Editor, SAM O’FEMI OLUSETIRE takes a look at implications of the medical report on Ikeme, his career prospects and life expectancy, as well as what it means to the Nigerian national team and other goalkeepers who have competed with him for the nation’s number one shirt…
‘Courageous Carl’ Stays Calm
-States Appreciation For Global Support
Wolverhampton Wanderers of England goalkeeper, Carl Onuoha Ikeme has declared that he will not let the diagnosis of leukemia in his body affect him, as the Super Eagles’ number one shot-stopper says he will put up a bold fight to regain good health.
While also expressing gratitude for the overwhelming support and goodwill messages that have come his way in Nigeria, England and all across the world since the news first broke, Ikeme said he will stay positive in order to achieve full recovery.
Ikeme stated as much on social media, as he took to Instagram for the first time in reaction to the medical report that spotted the blood cancer disease in his body during pre-season medical checks at his club.
In his reaction, the 31-year-old keeper shared a photo of himself on a hospital bed, with thumbs up, thanking everyone for the support he has received since news came out of his diagnosis.
He wrote: “Just wanted to say thanks for all the messages that I have received since being diagnosed with Leukaemia this week .
“The support that has been shown by everyone has taken me back and been hard to look at without shedding a tear ❤️ I know this is going to be a tough time now but I’m going to give it 100% as I always do! Thank you, Carl ❤️”
Petrov, Thomas Provide Hope For Survival
Former Aston Villa captain, Sylvan Petrov and ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Geoff Thomas have both provided Super Eagles shot-stopper, Carl Ikeme with words of encouragement that he will recover from the blood cancer that has ruled him out of action for the season, as they were also both once affected by the disease.
Though Petrov admitted that Ikeme may not be able to play active professional football once again, the Bulgarian ex-international said full recovery from leukemia is possible and the affected person would be able to live a normal life afterwards.
The ex-soccer star, who still keeps fit with weekly soccer activities at a community club in England, gave words of encouragement to Ikeme when he to visit the keeper over the weekend.
“I went to see Carl the other day, so we had a little chat. Obviously there were a lot of questions in his mind, and he was in very good spirits.
“He’s started his treatment now. It’s a long road to follow. He had so many questions so I’ve been through it with him.
“You need to answer in a way that’s going to give him everything that will happen, what to expect, how to deal with it, what are the side effects, how he’s going to approach everything.
“There’s a lot of things, but he’s in good spirits and that’s the main thing. I said to him you’ll have great support. Everybody around the world will support you and it’s a great help.
“I will always give myself as an example. It’s a long road, it’s hard, it’s tough, you need to really battle though it.” But look at me now.
“I’m alive, I’m kicking. It’s life afterwards and it’s worth it when you battle so hard to appreciate life even more afterwards,” Petrov told the Birmingham Mail.
Similarly, Thomas recalled how he battled the ailment, after he was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, but now raises money for a social foundation that backs the cure for leukaemia.
The former Wolves and England player said news of Ikeme’s diagnosis has “refocused everything” for him after a challenging fundraising cycle ride.
Thomas, who had a four-year spell at Wolves as a player, is raising money for the charity project called Cure Leukaemia and, after completing a grand tour, gave his words of support to Ikeme.
The ex-player said: “I was having a bad day on the bike yesterday. I was doing 130 miles in searing heat and I was thinking why am I doing this? I was really contemplating getting off.
“But then I get the news and it just refocused everything. This word leukaemia and cancer gets mentioned and it just stops you in your tracks. You think you’re fit and healthy and then you get that news.
“It’s devastating for everybody. I took so much positivity and support from the world of football and I’m sure that’s going to happen.”
On his part, Wolves’ managing director, Laurie Dalrymple said: “It goes without saying that Carl and his family will receive the full love and support that we at Wolves can provide – we are all with him every single step of the way towards a full recovery.”
Dosu, Shorunmu, De Gea Empathise
-Cech, Ter Stegen, Givens, Others Join Sympathy Talk
Two former Super Eagles goalkeepers, Joseph Dosu and Ike ‘Anobi’ Shorunmu, as well as several top goalkeepers in world football, like David De Gea, Peter Cech, Iker Casillas et al, have joined in raining words of empathy on Carl Ikeme, following the diagnosis of acute leukaemia for the Wolverhampton Wanderers of England netminder.
Dosu, whose football career was cut short after a near-fatal motor accident in Lagos in 1997, added that in spite of the setback it would not be difficult to find a replacement for Ikeme.
“It’s so unfortunate that he is going through this now, this is a great guy, he has done well since his invitation to the national team, and even with his club.
“We need to show him support and importantly pray for him, the need for these two cannot be overemphasised at this point in time.
“We have other fantastic goalkeepers, the likes of Daniel Akepeyi and Dele Alapansu and even in our league, no matter what happened to Akpeyi against South Africa, he is still one of the best,’’ he said.
In the same vein, Shorunmu, who is also a former Eagles goalkeepers’ trainer, told NAN that he could imagine what was going through Ikeme’s mind since the news broke out.
“I know what he must be going through, especially at the peak of his career and this happens, it can shatter any man to pieces, it happened to me too at some point in my career.
“I was down when I heard about his illness, it brought back memories of how I felt in 1998, I feel his pain, we should pray for him and be positive, and God will uphold him.
“I think the handlers of the Super Eagles know that they need to find a suitable replacement for him. “There are talents everywhere, in our league, it depends on what the coach is looking out for,’’ he said.
Joining the Nigerian legends is Manchester United’s top keeper, David De Gea, who says he feels deeply for Ikeme, as the Nigerian star begins chemotherapy.
After reading reports that Ikeme returned ”abnormal blood tests’’ during pre-season testing, De Gea took to his official Twitter handle to affirm that the global football family are solidly behind him.
”#KeepStrong Carl Ikeme, all goalkeepers and the football family are with you!’’ De Gea tweeted.
On his part, FC Barcelona of Spain shot stopper, Marc Ter Stegen Ter Stegen took to his official Facebook page on Friday to encourage people not to take their health for granted and wish Ikeme “all the strength in the world” in his recovery.
Other messages on social media went thus: Iker Casillas wrote :Mucha mucha fuerza @Carl_Ikeme !! Te mando un gran abrazo!! ??;” Loris Karius stated: “Very sad to hear of the illness of @Carl_Ikeme, #KeepStrong?? and keep fighting, we are all behind you!” Wayne Hennessey added: “Sending my love to you @carl_ikeme and your family at this time. Keep strong big man, I know you’re a fighter!” and Ali Al-Habsi wrote: “My thoughts are with you and your family at this time. Great person who is always positive. Be strong, praying for you! @Carl_Ikeme.”
Furthermore, Marcus Bettinelli contributed: “Thoughts are with you and your family bigman @Carl_Ikeme ??;” Asmir Begovic stated: “Stay strong Carl Ikeme, I am sure you will overcome this battle!” Shay Given added: “Stay strong and positive big man @Carl_Ikeme You will beat this disease and come back stronger #GKunion ?;” Petr Cech submitted: “All the best @Carl_Ikeme … “
Calls For Enyeama’s Return Resurface
A new chapter has suddenly opened in talk about a possible return to the Super Eagles by France-based goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, as the watching soccer audience is of a view that he needs to have a rethink of his decision to make a hasty exit from the Nigerian national team.
It is no longer news that Enyeama’s national team retirement was premature, as the experienced shot stopper, Nigeria’s most capped player ever with 101 appearances between his gloves, made the exit due to a falling out with former Eagles gaffer, Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh.
Considering the negative manner in which Enyeama bowed out, many fans and administrators of the round leather game have not been tired of clamouring for his return to the team, and the latest development now appears like the golden opportunity for that to happen.
All this, though, is coming at a point in which Enyeama is battling to restore his club status, following reports that he had been declared surplus for the new season at Lille Metropole of France, thereby putting a cloud of doubt over his continued relevance, efficiency and fitness into the new season.
That, though, has been put aside by protagonists of his return, as many zealots of the game are wont to argue that Enyeama’s experience would always make a world of difference, especially in the wake of the Eagles’ 2-0 loss at home to South Africa, in which goalkeeping errors were blamed for both goals.
The onus is now on Eagles’ handlers, led by the Franco-German technical adviser, Gernot Rohr to move swiftly with emotional and psychological impetus, while putting it to Enyeama that the time has come for him to have a rethink about retirement because the country needs him.
The move has to be made urgently, considering that the testy ties against Cameroon arte just round the corner and the goalkeeping hole has to be plugged as quickly as possible 9AQAP).
This could be a reflection of what happened back in 1998, when holidaying Peter Rufai had to be rapidly recalled to the Eagles for the World Cup in France, following shambolic performances by a series of alternatives called up ahead of the Mundial and, though, he eventually fumbled aty the main event, many felt none of the other options would have fared better.
Akpeyi, Alampasu, Ezenwa Seek Elevation
-Daniel, Ajiboye, Thomas Also In Contention
The tussle is now apparently on between the top three goalkeepers who had been called up alongside Carl Ikeme for recent matches of the Super Eagles, as Dele Alampasu, Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa look to take advantage of the situation.
Though all three will certainly be filled with emotions and empathy over Ikeme’s plight, life surely has to go on and it is now up to them to stage another round of healthy competitions to take over the spot.
Ordinarily, the onus would have been on Akpeyi to step and take over the mantle, but for the fact that he is currently in the bad books of Nigerian soccer fans – and probably Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr – following his foibles in the 2-0 loss at home with South Africa.
That game turned into a banana peel of sorts for the previously reliable Akpeyi, who shot into the mainframe of the Eagles after performing well in a 1-1 draw friendly away to the same South Africans, which earned him a deal with one of the Rainbow Nation’s top clubs, Chippa United.
However, the former youth international, who had earlier also been reduced in status by former Eagles head coach, Samson Yebowei Siasia in the under-23 team that won bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics, despite being one of the over-aged players in the roster, will now have to contend with two other highly promising shot-stoppers.
The promising lads are Alampasu, top choice for the Golden Eaglets en route to winning the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates, and Ezenwa, who stole in from third spot to become Flying Eagles number one at Canada 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Incidentally, one of the keepers Ezenwa upstaged back then, Femi Thomas continues making waves in the domestic league, where he now lines out for Rivers United of Port Harcourt, and could be a bold contender among the outsiders to take over from Ikeme.
He is joined by top choice in the FIFA U-17 World Cup winning squad of Korea 2007, Dele Ajiboye (Aji-Boy), who is also holding his own in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), while number one at the Olympics last year, Emmanuel Daniel can also not be left out of the picture.
It is now left to be seen what Rohr and his assistants, led by home league veteran, Salisu Yusuf, will do in deciding who becomes Nigeria’s next number one between the sticks.
Aiyenugba Likely To Rejoin Eagles
Former Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Dele Aiyenugba (The Cat) could be in line for a shock recall to the Nigerian senior national team.
This follows the possibility that Eagles’ current first choice, Carl Onuoha Ikeme might be forced into a premature retirement as he has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
The development has further deepened the goalkeeper crisis rocking Eagles, which has now occasioned talk about the possibility of Aiyenugba getting a recall.
Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr used Daniel Akpeyi in the absence of Ikeme, but the Chippa United of South Africa star failed to impress in the Eagles last game against South Africa which ended 0-2 in favor of Bafana Bafana in Uyo in the AFCON 2019 qualifiers.
Unsatisfied with Akpeyi’s display in the game, the coach is looking for experienced shot stopper ahead of Nigeria’s World Cup 2018 qualifiers back to back game against Cameroon in August and September, as he believes Dele Alampasu isn’t ready yet for a game of that magnitude.
Although Rohr is in regular contact with erstwhile goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, he won’t be pushing him for a return as he has long left the door open for Enyeama to communicate to him when he is ready to return to the team.
If Enyeama fails to contact Rohr, the coach will switch to Aiyenugba who kept 33 games last season for Hapoel Ashkelon in the Israeli top division, following his move from Bnei Yehuda where he has been since 2009.
33 year old Aiyenugba last kept goal for Nigeria in 2011 against Guinea, a game Nigeria drew 2-2 , hence missed out on the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
What Is Leukaemia?
Leukaemia is cancer of the blood or bone marrow (which produces blood cells). A person who has leukemia suffers from an abnormal production of blood cells, generally leukocytes (white blood cells).
People sometimes confuse leukemia and lymphoma. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood; lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system (lymph glands). The word Leukemia comes from the Greek leukos, which means “white”, and aima, which means “blood”.
The DNA of immature blood cells, mainly white cells, becomes damaged in some way. This abnormality causes the blood cells to grow and divide continuously. Healthy blood cells die after a while and are replaced by new cells, which are produced in the bone marrow.
The abnormal blood cells do not die when they should, and accumulate, occupying more space. As more cancer cells are produced, they impede the function and growth of healthy white blood cells by crowding out space in the blood. Essentially, the bad cells crowd out the good cells in the blood.
As immature white blood cells crowd out blood platelets, which are crucial for blood clotting, the patient may bruise or bleed easily and heal slowly – he may also develop petechiae (a small red to purple spot on the body, caused by a minor hemorrhage).
The patient’s white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off infection, may be suppressed or not working properly. The patient may experience frequent infections, or his immune system may attack other good body cells.
As the shortage of good red blood cells grows the patient may suffer from anemia – this may lead to difficult or labored respiration (dyspnea) and pallor (skin has a pale color caused by illness).
Patients may also experience nausea, fever, chills, night sweats, flu-like symptoms, weight loss, bone pain, and tiredness. If the liver or spleen becomes enlarged the patient may feel full and will eat less, resulting in weight loss.
Weight loss can also occur independent of hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) or splenomegaly (enlarged spleen). Headache is more common among patients whose cancerous cells have invaded the CNS (central nervous system).
As all these symptoms could be due to other illnesses, a diagnosis of leukemia can only be confirmed after medical tests are carried out.
NFF, Nigerian Players Express Shock
Nigeria Football Federation has expressed shock and dismay at news on Thursday evening that Super Eagles’ number one goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, had been diagnosed with acute leukemia.
A stunned NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, was lost for words after the sad news broke in the international media. “What? This is very, very sad. Carl Ikeme diagnosed with acute leukemia? This is harsh.”
Sanusi stated that the NFF and the Nigerian Football family would rally round the energetic shot –stopper in his difficult period.
“Our thoughts are with Carl at this difficult period. The NFF and the football fraternity in Nigeria are taken aback by this sad development, knowing how strong Carl has been in goal for Nigeria since he made his debut in 2015.
“We have been told that he will start chemotherapy immediately. We want him to stay strong and remain the self –assured man that he has always been, and we will continue to pray for him and wish him the best with regards to the treatment,” Sanusi said.
Ikeme has always shown ability, agility and high level of confidence between the sticks for Nigeria, since taking up the number one goalie’s responsibilities following the sudden retirement of three –time World Cup star Vincent Enyeama from international football in October 2015.
He was in goal for the Super Eagles over two legs of the 2018 FIFA World Cup preliminary round against Swaziland, as well as the 2-1 defeat of Zambia in Ndola at the beginning of the group phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup race.
He was also in action against Tanzania and Egypt in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches, and in friendly games against Mali and Luxembourg in Europe last year summer.
Many of the Super Eagles players have also shown their solidarity with the goalkeeper during his lengthy treatment period
Nigeria internationals took to social media to express their sympathy for goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who has been diagnosed of acute leukaemia.
Ikeme’s English Championship club, Wolverhampton Wanderers also disclosed on their website on Thursday, that the Super Eagles goalkeeper has cancer in his bone marrow after a pre-season testing which returned abnormal blood tests.
In reaction to the sad news, Super Eagles stars shared their heartfelt messages to the 31-year-old who is expected to take a long absence from football.