Newcastle player living the dream with his national team

Shola Ameobi

Better late than never. At 31, Shola Ameobi has become a full-fledged Nigerian international. Now, the dream of playing in a world cup is no longer a distant reality.

Ameobi has been given special responsibilities by coach Stephen Keshi.

The Toon striker is seen as a leader, a senior player who could guide the young Nigerian talent coming through.

He was forced to miss last year's African Cup of Nations due to a clause in his Newcastle United contract which stopped him from travelling to the tournament.

At the time, Keshi said: "He brings a lot to the table. He was almost like a second coach on the field, organising the boys, showing his experience with calmness and maturity and off the field, he showed great humility.

"I was very impressed with him and he would have added a lot to our team."

Unfortunately for Ameobi, he missed out on Nigeria's superb campaign and ultimate triumph against Burkina Faso in the final in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fast forward seven months and the lad who came through Newcastle's academy has not only made his home debut for Nigeria, but also scored his first international goal for the Super Eagles.

He is now expected to line-up for Nigeria in their crucial two-legged World Cup play-off against Ethiopia in October and November.

"For us to qualify for the World Cup, that would be the perfect present to give to the fans and the country," Ameobi told KickOffNigeria.com.

"They should be worried about us. We are champions of Africa and it's important that we go out there and prove that again."

Ameobi's contribution on and off the pitch at Newcastle may have gone unnoticed, but there is little doubt he has the respect of Nigerian football officials - and is a vital player for them ahead of the world cup in Brazil.

It's an amazing story, and a bit of a fairytale for the Toon frontman.

What do you think? Can Ameobi make his mark for Nigeria on the world stage?  

image: © blenky64

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