By Fred Edoreh
With Nigeria, s Super Eagles aiming for total victory over Cameroon in their forthcoming two-legged qualifying encounter to the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup and also hoping to find their way back to contention in the AFCON 2019 qualifiers, Coach Hermit Rohr is suddenly faced with a critical challenge with the breaking of the news on Thursday evening that the nation’s number one goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme has been diagnosed with acute leukemia.
Ikeme who came in handy for Nigeria ith the sudden exit of Vincent Enyeama from the senior national team, proving his reliability in the World Cup preliminary and group qualifying clashes with Swaziland and Zambia is reportedly scheduled to undergo immediate chemotherapy.
General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mohammed Sanusi who received the news with shock has described the development as “very very sad” and harsh, indicating worries for the campaigns of the Super Eagles.
“This is harsh. The NFF and the football fraternity in Nigeria are taken aback by this development, knowing how strong Carl has been in goal for Nigeria since he made his debut in 2015,” Sanusi lamented to thenff.com.
Chairman of the NFF Technical and Development Committee, Chris Green, indicated in a comment on Friends United by Sports, a Whatsapp group of Nigeria’s top sports administrators, managers and media executives, that the NFF will take urgent steps to visit him and be with him “every step of the way.”
Green who said he had been excited and relieved to learn of Ikeme’s come back to action after several months of injury only to learn about the sudden twist, called on Nigerians to follow up with prayers for the successful treatment of the goal tender.
Ikeme had been missing in action in a couple of Nigeria’s crucial engagements due to reported hip injury but his return was being highly anticipated ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifying encounter with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to assure Nigerians of keeping their lead in the African group which also has Zambia and Tunisia.
Nigerian football fans have not seemed to be impressed by his replacement, Dan Akpeyi whose untidy catch gifted the Bafana Bafana of South Africa the first goal in a 2-0 defeat of the Super Eagles at home in Uyo, earning South Africa their first victory over Nigeria in top flight competition and to inflict more headache on the team with a shaky start to the AFCON 2019 qualifying campaign after Nigeria had failed successively to book ticket to the last two, 2015 and 2017, editions.
Coach Rohr had voiced preference to more matured, high profile goal keepers as the first psychological pressure on opponents and has thus not shown much interest and confidence on goalies in the domestic professional league. He had somewhat alluded to the possibility of recalling Vincent Enyeama from international retirement but this has remained largely only a matter of academic debate among fans and pundits without any official position, as yet.
It is uncertain how long the treatment of Ikeme will take and how soon thereafter he can recuperate to take his place between the uprights. It is equally uncertain if Rohr will eventually opt for the Enyeama recall, stick to Akpeyi or begin to build confidence in the likes of Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah) who was the toast of Spanish fans for his agile displays against Valencia FC and Atletico Madrid during the NPFL All Stars LaLiga tour in the summer of 2016.