African All Stars

Gernot Rohr reveals 'greatest headache' as Nigeria coach

19:46 EAT 27/11/2018
Gernot Rohr
Two years after he took over at the helm, the gaffer has picked Ikeme’s illness as the most worrying situation he has faced

Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in July 2017 and Gernot Rohr has described the goalkeeper's sickness as his greatest headache since he took charge of Nigeria national team.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers shot-stopper announced that he was in complete remission in June after year-long chemotherapy.

A month later, the 32-year-old decided to hang his football boots for medical reasons; one which was celebrated by goalkeepers from all over the world.

Ikeme made 10 appearances for the three-time African champions including three qualifying matches that helped Nigeria secured a spot in the 2018 Fifa World Cup but was unable to make the finals in Russia.

“If there is one thing I would say gave me the greatest headache, it was the sickness of Carl Ikeme, it was very disappointing,” Rohr said on SuperSports' Monday Night Football.

Elche’s Francis Uzoho who stood in goal for the Super Eagles in Russia has succeeded Ikeme.

Five months after their disappointing World Cup group stage exit, Nigeria qualified for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after settling for a 1-1 draw against South Africa a week ago in Johannesburg – their first qualification since their triumph in the 2013 edition.

The Super Eagles were without skipper John Obi Mikel in their last four qualifying fixtures [vs. Seychelles, Libya (twice) and South Africa] but the former Bordeaux manager, full of praise for the Tianjin Teda midfielder, has disclosed that there is no automatic shirt for the players as they all need to prove their fitness before the continental showpiece scheduled for Cameroon next year June.

“Nobody has a special right, nobody has an automatic place or starting position in the team," he added.

“Not even John Obi Mikel, but we have to respect the captain for what he did for Nigeria. I like him, I love him. He's a good captain.

“I'm very happy with him, we never forget him but now is a situation that he hasn't come since the World Cup, other players did very well so he has to play again in his club to show his fitness before coming back eventually.”