Following Carl Ikeme's decision to retire from football after a year-long cancer battle, Emmanuel Babayaro believes the shot-stopper deserves an ambassadorial role with Nigeria.
The 32-year-old made his international debut for the Super Eagles against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in a 2017 Afcon qualifiers in September 2015, and went on to earn 10 caps in the country’s colours before he was diagnosed with Leukemia in July 2017, thus preventing him to feature at the just concluded World Cup in Russia.
And he announced his decision to end his playing career on Friday.
Despite his brief stint for the Super Eagles, the former Nigeria goalkeeper feels the Sutton Coldfield-born man performed credibly well and deserves some accolades for accepting to play for the country.
"The state of his cancer may have taken a toll on his decision and focus on other aspects of the game it would be exploring,” Babayaro told Goal.
"He also might have studied well his health situation and possibly coupled with the advice of his doctors to quit the game.
"He served the country well, even though we found him late at the twilight of his football career. But the few times he featured for the country, he did credibly well and gave everything playing for the national team.
"We love him and will always appreciate his contributions. I think he can serve us better as Super Eagles ambassador because he merits such a role. A young man who had dual nationality and could have chosen another country but accepted to serve Nigeria.
"We need people like him who could add value to the national team and could speak for Nigeria in the diaspora as an ambassador. He will offer a good representation of the country. I support him totally and his decision to retire because he needs to be alive to be of great value to himself and humanity."
All the best for the future, @Carl_Ikeme 💛
You're an inspiration and role model to so many - such as those who attended our Goalkeeper Clinic last December👏👇 #OneCarlIkeme #WolvesSoccerSchools #wwfc @Wolves @Young_Wolves @MattMurray20 pic.twitter.com/uCuRyn68uM — WolvesCommunityTrust (@wolvescomtrust) July 27, 2018
With Ikeme’s retirement cutting down the country’s goalkeeping options, the 41-year-old believes the Wolves man could be huge bargain and resources for upcoming goalkeepers.
“In terms of talent, every talent is a big loss but I don't think his retirement is a loss altogether for Nigeria because he is 32 years and at the next World Cup, he will be 36. Who knows if he could be significant or not at that time?," he continued.
“If he's made an ambassador, he will always be of there to assisting in every way he can. Even when we have goalkeeper trainers in the team, he could galvanise the young and upcoming goalkeepers.
“As an ambassador, he could hold seminars and talks. He grew up in Europe and knows and understands the system more than we do here and could help us with experience. It could be the beginning of we enjoying him better if we do the right thing.”