Dealing with the abrupt end to a career while in your prime as a professional athlete, on one hand and on the other, fighting for your life after you’re diagnosed with a life threatening disease can be overwhelming even for a strong character like Carl Ikeme.
On Thursday, Wolverhampton Wanderers announced the 31-year-old Nigerian had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia after a routine pre-season medical test.
The news was devastating; a major blow, and it sent shock waves throughout the football world, but even more so in Nigeria.
For those who know him personally and have had the privilege of seeing Carl in action through his fourteen years as a pro, nothing could have been as cruel as this very sad news.
He was in a good place, recently coming through an injury that showed how important he had come to be for both club and country.
In the line of our job as writers, what is toughest is hoping a headline and the story catch the attention of the reader.
The subject of Carl’s health was nerve gripping and to say the least one I’d truly hoped not to write.
“Casting” any headline or writing a story about Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper, since the news broke has been a tough business – It takes one with a soul to write about it.
As we pray and ask that Carl, his family and friends be strong, we as a nation and lovers of football must also be strong enough to move on, leaving with him our best and deepest thoughts for the wonderful memories in his very brief international career.
Thank you all for your kindness and Love ❤️ The start of a new chapter and ready to give it my all! Thank you ❤️🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/V4Sn5T8PKV
— Carl Ikeme (@Carl_Ikeme) July 9, 2017
In the light of this, let nobody be ashamed to talk about getting a more than capable replacement for the Super Eagles now.
Certainly, Carl Ikeme himself would hope to see the national team move quickly past this very difficult time and as he once said, ensure we achieve the goals of picking qualification tickets for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Nations Cup – of this, “We are confident”.
So, once again we must take a cursory look at the goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles and other age-grade teams, to create a delibrate system that allows for the best goalkeepers rise through the ranks.
Allow the young talents graduate through the ranks so there can be a sustained transition as should naturally be – and that is an echo.
The other option open to our Coaches and by extension the Nigeria Football Federation – as they’ve already begun – is to scout talents from within and by all means overseas.
Carl Ikeme is the second time the Eagles would have to deal with filling a huge void of…having a capable Man between the sticks.
Only two years before, Vincent Enyeama walked off the international scene, albeit acrimoniously. His retirement stirred up quite a storm and has continued to do so till this day.
There have been calls for him to return or be forced to – how the latter will happen is unclear – but he has insisted on staying retired.
Meanwhile, where the real problem lies is with the Coaches not trying hard enough to convince any one that they have an inkling of how to capably deal with the Elephant in the room.
Sadly, none of the current options at the disposal of Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr’s seem to be even slightly competent going by their numbers.
It should come off as a stern assessment, true, but with the crucial world cup qualifying matches against Cameroon beckoning, none can afford to be patronizing and Rohr should know that a lot hinges on getting outright positive results home and away.
Daniel Akpeyi has shown a great number of times his poor judgement.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa hasn’t been the best goalkeeper in the Nigeria Professional League since he became a regular invitee.
Why he repeatedly gets invited but ends up on the bench is a question goalkeeper trainer, Alloy Agu might have to explain, clearer, again.
The third choice is an open shot for any other name that sounds familiar – that’s how it seems the selection is concluded.
More often than not, Dele Alampasu has been the name. But why does he qualify to be the Eagles’ third choice goalie? May be an explain will surface one day, we’ll wait.
None of the three mentioned have been outstanding by any stretch, but it is the devil or the deep blue sea now for Rohr.
Does he have time to try out another goalkeeper before Nigeria host Cameroon.
Will that gamble pay off or will it come back to bite the 64-year-old tactician, who has done pretty well until now?
On the other side – and here’s a food for thought – Cameroon have kept faith with a 21-year-old as first choice goalkeeper.
He made his international debut in 2014 and since then has been capped 35 times for the Indomitable Lions.
Fabrice Ondoa, was one of the few top performers who helped Hugo Broos win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations title.
If there’s to be a stumbling block between Nigeria and a greater points haul over two legs when they face Cameroon, Ondoa will be the difference.
Interestingly, what’s more shocking about the boy-wonder in goal for Cameroon is that he has only seven club appearances to show for his talent since 2014, despite his strides on the international scene.
Let that sink in.
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