Carl Ikeme reflects on battle with cancer, 'unfinished Nigeria business'

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Acute Leukaemia ended the former Super Eagles and Wolves goalkeeper’s career abruptly

Carl Ikeme has reflected on his battle with cancer and revealed plans to learn from Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr.

In July 2017, the 32-year-old was diagnosed with the disease after returning for Wolverhampton Wanderers pre-season ahead of their 2017-18 season.

However, after undergoing a rigorous 12-month treatment, he was in complete remission but the disease ended his football career and denied him a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"I had a couple of blood tests at the start of pre-season that showed my platelets were a little low," Ikeme told BBC Sport.

"There was no massive alarm. I carried on training - I was fit, I was healthy.

"We did a hard session, then went to the gym. I had a bleeding nose. I never told the doctor anything because I knew he would pull me out of training - for some reason, this time I told him about the nosebleed and a slight headache.

"I had another blood test, which was still low, so he said we had to see a specialist.

"You take a little gasp of breath when they tell you what they are testing for but I never thought, a few days later, it would be cancer.

"I was at homebase when I got a call from the doctor.

"I was expecting him to say everything was fine. I can't remember him saying 'you've got cancer' but I do remember him talking about Geoff Thomas and Stan Petrov and that it was going to be a tough year for me and my family.

"I remember being in the car park and tearing up.

"At the time my daughter Mila was four. I thought 'Am I going to be there for her?' My partner Saba was heavily pregnant and due to give birth a week later. I thought 'I am going to die'.

"I had finished my last intense treatment and it was time for me to go home. I got my stuff out of my apartment and said to the medical staff 'If someone asks what the situation is now, what do I tell them?' They told me I was in complete remission and I could get on with my life.

"It is still not over for me now. I am still being treated. I still have hurdles to jump."

Carl Ikeme ps

Ikeme made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2015 and soon became the first-choice goalkeeper following the retirement of Vincent Enyeama.

But his condition denied a chance of participating at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"The World Cup was the hardest thing, football-wise, for me to deal with,” he continued.

"When we played England at Wembley in June, I felt 'it should have been me'. It was the same during the first match of the World Cup. It is not a case of life not being fair, more that every kid wants to play at one.

"I watched the matches through multiple angles. Even though I had my own issues, I couldn't think the games didn't matter. I had an emotional involvement.

"They were my team-mates. People I class as friends. When Argentina scored in the last minute to knock us out, I was angry in my living room. I felt bad as a fan. I felt sad for my team-mates and sad for Nigeria.

"I can't explain how joyous playing for Nigeria was for me. To know my whole family was proud. To know I was representing 200 million people who are mad about football. I love it there.

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"I have unfinished business with Nigeria. I have spoken to the manager, Gernot Rohr, about learning from him; about the set-up and understanding the tactics from the sidelines. He has offered me the opportunity to go and be one of his assistants, which is great.

"I am hoping to be involved in an upcoming fixture against Libya in October. If not that one, the next."

Carl Ikeme ps

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