The Nigerian born marksman, who has made over 270 appearances for 'the toon' and scored more than 50 goals, cites his Christian faith as the most important thing in his life: “I’m doing what I love, playing football, but its second to my faith.”
The former England Under 21 striker, whose name is short for ‘Foluwashola, began his journey into English football when the 5 year-old Zaria born Nigerian moved with his father to complete his PHD studies in Newcastle upon Tyne. But instead of returning to his teaching job in Nigeria, his father felt God calling him and his family to stay on the Tyne and serve him there, eventually becoming a Pastor at the Newcastle Apostolic Church in the Spital Tongues.
Talent spotted as a 12 year-old, Shola joined the club’s academy, where he progressed through the ranks whilst also attaining academic excellence: he has 11 GCSE’s. Signing up as a pro in 2000, Shola made his debut as a 19 year-old against Chelsea. His twelve years at St. James Park have been a rollercoaster of highs – including crucial goals in big European nights against Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen, Intertoto Cup glory, becoming the club's second highest goal scorer in Europe, and being named Barclays Premiership Player of the month in 2009, intertwined with the lows of erratic form, injuries and relegation to the Championship in 2009.
Football is very much a family affair. Shola’s younger brother, Sami, is also at Newcastle. In 2011 the two became the first brothers in nearly 60 years to represent the Magpies. Adding to the new family tradition is middle brother Tomi - formerly of Newcastle and Leeds, who now plays in the Icelandic league. 2012 saw 31 year old Ameobi, once mistaken by ex-boss and mentor, Bobbie Robson, for former team mate, Carl Cort, make his international debut for his native Nigeria in a friendly against Venezuela.
A constant throughout his long career is his relationship with God and the faith that carried him though a life threatening injury sustained in 2006. “It just kept me going,” he admits. “It was touch and go for a while. It was a terrible time, but I felt that God was going to see me through, and he did.” Shola Ameobi - shining for Christ at St. James' Park. - Hefin Rhys Jones
March 3rd, 2013 - Posted & Written by Hefin Rhys Jones