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Balancing Family and Football

Baby Grace Ameobi, 9 months old, has a lot to say. Her father, Tomi Ameobi, warned me that she was chatty, and she was. She is also absolutely adorable, with a head full of dark curls, a ready smile and is the apple of her parents’ eyes.

Tomi Ameobi is a soccer player for FC Edmonton, Edmonton’s professional soccer team and part of the brand new national soccer league, the Canadian Premier League. FC Edmonton’s first home game is on May 12th, which is Mother’s Day, so I spoke with Tomi and his wife, Andrea, about what it is like to raise a family in Edmonton and, in particular, what it felt like being a sports family.

Tomi is originally from Newcastle, and from a sporting family himself. A young man, with a blindingly bright, infectious smile, he talks about Edmonton as his home. “I felt it the first time I stepped foot in Edmonton – I knew this was home”. And it was, for him, as he met Andrea – who, incidentally, has just as bright and infectious smile as Tomi, through mutual friends and wed her. Andrea was born and brought up in Edmonton and has a network of family and friends in the city who have embraced Tomi as much as the fans of FC Edmonton have.

Making a living as a professional athlete might be the dream, but it comes with its own set of anxieties and uncertainties. For Tomi, it was a matter of learning how to communicate with Andrea. He is part of a huge family back in the U.K., but at the same time, he says he was always a bit of a lone wolf, independent and preferring not to rely on others. When Andrea came into his life, she laughingly mentions that, at first, he was pretty reserved and actually sent her emails instead of texting or talking to each other. Tomi is honest about the fact he needed to learn how to communicate and credits Andrea with teaching him how. For Andrea, Tomi’s profession as an athlete is just that – a job – and while it was difficult at first when they were dating, it got better as time went by and she doesn’t really dwell on it as much. It is certainly easier now, as Tomi won’t be traveling as much as he did in previous years – thankfully, as he puts it, “we won’t be gone as much, with ten-day road trips, or days of traveling”. But learning how to communicate well with each other has certainly helped their relationship.

TomiandAndreaStory

This communication came in handy, when the original iteration of FC Edmonton closed down a couple of years ago, as Tomi and Andrea moved to Cincinnati. I wondered what it felt like, to have to leave the life they were building behind and have to move to a different city, a different country? Both Tomi and Andrea immediately agree that it was their strong faith as Christians, and a belief this was God’s plan for them, that kept them going. They also credit the move as bringing them closer together and building a strong foundation for their family, particularly with the surprise arrival of Grace. With no close family nearby, they relied on each other to support and hold the new family together.

Moving back to Edmonton, as part of the newly revamped FC Edmonton was a dream come true for both of them. Tomi, because he gets to play with the teammates he considers friends and family, and for Andrea, the support that comes from having her own family close by.

Andrea herself is a teacher, and an entrepreneur – she has an upcoming line of children’s wear that will be released in the fall – and Grace is her inspiration. Balancing motherhood and career is not necessarily easy, as a lot of women know, but she does it with ease, also acknowledging gratefully the support of her family. She is still getting used to being a mother, but she sees it as an extension of herself and baby Grace is certainly, for her, a blessing.

Throughout our chat, one thing shines clear, and that is the strength of family ties that bind Tomi, Andrea and Grace together. Whether those ties are by blood, friendship, or even fandom, family is what makes them the people they are.

They see themselves as a team, learning how to rely on each other, and have each other’s backs during difficult times. For Andrea it is about balancing each other, working together to overcome problems, helping each other and being there for each other throughout. For Tomi, it is about coming together, even if it for a worth while, and making a conscious effort at spending time together. It is about “ …knowing that I have someone, right beside me, taking up and sharing burdens, facing those challenges, those trials together as a team.” And in the end, whether it is being a team with Andrea and Grace, or with Tomi’s FC Edmonton teammates, it is really, all about being a family and celebrating it to the best of their ability. That is really what Mother’s Day is all about, isn’t it?

FC Edmonton plays their first home game against Pacific FC on Sunday, May 12th at 1.30 PM at Clarke Field. Get your tickets to FC Edmonton’s Home Opener HERE!