Ikeme’s Leukaemia And Five Ex-Eagles Who Suffered Critical Medical Conditions
It was barely one week that Super Eagles and Wolverhampton Wanderers first choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme was diagnosed of acute Leukaemia during his club’s pre-season testing. According to medical terms, acute leukaemia is a type of cancer which attacks the white blood cells. It is otherwise called cancer of the white blood cells. As a result of the latest diagnoses, Sahara Sports examines five previous Super Eagles players who suffered critical medical situations in the course of their football career: Excerpts
Carl Onora Ikeme
Ikeme has been a Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) player throughout his 14-year professional career. He has been out on numerous loans but featured regularly for Wolves in recent years. The Championship club announced last week Thursday that the 31-year-old had begun immediate treatment after being diagnosed with the disease during pre-season training.
According to latest report from the club, Ikeme will remain listed as the club’s No 1 as he battles acute leukaemia. Wolves have signed former England goalkeeper John Ruddy following his release by Norwich but he will not take the long-serving Ikeme’s squad number. Wolves have also announced a number of initiatives to support Ikeme in what could be a long fight against the condition.
Ten per cent of gate receipts from the season opener against Middlesbrough on August 5 will be donated to Birmingham-based charity Cure Leukaemia, as will profits from the sale of goalkeeper replica shirts printed with ‘Ikeme 1’. A large banner, flags and messages of support for Ikeme on the electronic boards are among the club’s other initiatives.
On the other hand, former Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with the same condition in March 2012. He suspended his football career to have treatment which was ultimately successful.
Based on these developments, Ikeme will undergo chemotherapy treatment as he battles to survive the deadly disease, but medical experts are of the opinion that the experienced goalkeeper is likely to experience some inevitable changes in his body metabolism such as ‘losing his hair’ and other
Ikeme was first called up to the Super Eagles squad in 2007 following the premature retirement of former captain and goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama from the national team. He made his international debut for Nigeria on 5 September 2015 against Tanzania in a 2017 African Cup of Nations qualification game.
He missed the Super Eagles international friendly games against Corsica and Togo, including the crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against South Africa.
Nigeria surprisingly lost the game 2-0 at home to the highly resurgent South Africans Bafana team in Uyo.
Nwakwo ‘Papilo’ Kanu
Former Super Eagles captain, Nwankwo Kanu could be likened to ‘a cat with nine lives’ after overcoming a terrible heart disease that almost cut short his football career in 1997. After returning from the Olympics, ‘Papilo’ underwent a medical examination at Inter, which revealed a serious heart defect; he underwent surgery in November 1996 to replace an aortic valve and did not return to his club until April 1997.
Kanu won UEFA Champions League with Ajax Amsterdam in 1995, a UEFA Cup medal, three FA Cup medals, and two African Player of the Year awards amongst others. He is also one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta 1996. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador among other laurels won by the former Portsmouth forward.
The experience also led to his founding the Kanu Heart Foundation, an organisation that helps predominantly young African children who suffer heart defects and whose work was expanded to provide aid for homeless children in 2008.
Recently, Kanu revealed how his wife Amara saved his life from what would have resulted into another recurring rupture by asking him to undergo a check-up which revealed further damage to his heart and that he needed a second operation. After the check in the United States in 2012, it was Amara who also helped nurse her husband back to full health.
“Kanu’s heart doctor said to me, ‘What’s the routine you have been using with Kanu all these years for him to play football and win all his medals, the FA Cup and everything?’ So I just said healthy eating, exercise and listening to your body. I wanted to use all my knowledge to help other people,” Amara stated in her new book to be unveiled at the Emirate Stadium on Friday, July 14, in London.
Aside Kanu, the book is also dedicated to other sports stars who have suffered heart problems, including Fabrice Muamba and former Newcastle United player Cheick Tiote who died from a heart attack in June. The couple wedded in 2004 and has three kids together, Sean, Ian and Pinky.
Former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Wilfred Agbonavbare was diagnosed of cancer late January 2015, and subsequently underwent treatment at the Hospital Universitario Príncipe de Asturias in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain. Both Agonavbare’s former team Rayo Vallecano and its opponents Atletico Madrid displayed a banner during their league match at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on 24 January in solidarity to identify with their former goalie. Late Agbonavbare later succumbed to the disease three days later aged 48.
Agbonavbare appeared with the Nigeria’s U-20 team, the Flying Eagles at the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championship in Mexico. He was in goal for the Super Eagles during the qualifiers for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, and went on to represent Nigeria at the Mundial.
Another former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Joseph Dosu also survived a life threatening automobile accident that finally rendered him on clutches. The accident occurred at Ikorodu Road in Lagos after Nigeria booked the France ‘98 World Cup ticket against the Harambee Stars of Kenya June 7, 1997, at the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos. A game the Super Eagles won 3-0 to qualify.
The former Julius Berger goalkeeper, in a recent interview told Sahara Sports how former Lagos State military governor, Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd) supported him by taking care of his medical bills in Turkey after the fatal automobile accident that almost claimed his life in 1997.
Dosu won gold with Nigeria’s U-23 football team Dream Team 1 at the men’s football event of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. He played for clubs like Julius Berger, Highlanders of Jos and Italian club FC Reggiana, before he was forced to retire at a young age of 23, due to the accident. He currently runs a football outfit namely Westerlo Football Academy as part of his contribution to help young budding talents discover their football potentials.
Former Super Eagles forward, Femi Opabunmi also had his fast-moving football career cut short following the acute eyes problems since 2006. Opabunmi had a rapid achievement by representing Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup less than one year after helping the Golden Eagles to win silver at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Trinidad and Tabago.
He featured against England in the last group game of 2002 World Cup, and thus became the third youngest player to ever play in the World Cup finals after Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland and Samuel Eto’o Fills of Cameroon.
Reacting on the ugly incident, Opabunmi said: “Many believed I was cursed, even my mother because in Paris the doctors medically said there was nothing wrong with my eyes. Funds were given to me to survive by my former teammates (including Osaze Odemwingie) and well wishers. I gave pastors some of the money, hoping that if I got healed I would start afresh with a coaching career.
“I visited several churches and mountains in search of a cure but it never happened. They duped me of my small cash. I paid more than 400,000 to pastors in order so that I can see again, but nothing happened. Not only that, I also went to see some Imams as well, but they all turned out to be dubious men of God who duped me of everything I had.”
“It’s a bad story. Sometimes I don’t want to watch Nigerian football because any day I want to do so, I cry,” Opabunmi was quoted on a live radio programme in Lagos. I don’t know if the NFF will help me now. I needed their assistance. I will like my children to play professional football in future, but I will not allow them to play for this country.
“My experience brings me bad memories. I will rather encourage them to take up nationalities of other countries and play international football elsewhere.
“I believe in God. If He says they (NFF) will do something for me, they will, and if they can’t, there’s nothing we can do.”
Another Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) goalkeeper, Best Ogedegbe died, at the University College Hospital in Ibadan on 28 September 2009, aged 55. He had undergone eye surgery the previous week, but had lapsed into a coma following complications from the operation.
Ogedegbe won the 1980 African Cup of Nations on home soil by defeating bitter rival Algeria’s Desert Foxes 3-0 at the main bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos. He also represented Games in Moscow.
He featured for Shooting Stars FC (now Shooting Stars Sports Club) between 1978 and 1982, and was the goalkeeper when the Ibadan club won Nigeria’s first continental trophy, the African Cup Winners Cup in 1976. He also spent four years with Abiola Babes of Abeokuta from 1982 to 1986.
Ogedegbe was an assistant coach during the 2008-09 for defunct Dolphins F C. He was also a former assistant with Wikki Tourists and the 2008 Summer Olympics silver medalist team.