Shrewsbury Town sporting siblings drive each other at top of the game

Nobody appreciates the journey of Shrewsbury star Nathanael Ogbeta more than his older sister, British triple jump champion and Olympics hopeful Naomi.

From teaching Nathanael how to cook, their mum's Shrewsbury matchday antics, a devout faith, a relentless lockdown work ethic, learning languages, his humble nature and likeable slang, Naomi has been with her younger brother every step of the way.

The duo spent much of 2020 living together, starting just before the pandemic and including around nine months of lockdown after Naomi moved out of their Salford family home and Nathanael wanted to sample independence ahead of a move away from Manchester City's academy.

A year on from that and there could hardly be a more exciting sporting sibling duo in Britain.

Naomi, who just turned 23, is gunning for her debut Olympics in Tokyo in July. She has to jump a certain distance to secure her place and is on track after smashing her personal best of 14.29 when Diamond League action returned in May.

She is seven-times British champion and just last week she came away from the European Team Championships with a second-placed medal and continues to make waves after athletics made its long-awaited return from a Covid-19 exile last month.

Nathanael, meanwhile, who turned 20 in April, has take to senior football like a duck to water. Shrewsbury's young player of the season, he barely missed a minute after checking in from City as a relative unknown in January. The England under-20 youngster is being tipped as a star of the future.

"I was always confident, I knew that wherever he'd go he'd prepared himself, " Naomi Ogbeta tells the Shropshire Star.

Nathanael Ogbeta of Shrewsbury Town celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 3-0.

"He was trying to learn different languages during lockdown in case he moved abroad, I was kind of relieved when I knew it was going to be somewhere close by, with family too."

It was mooted Nathanael could follow the well-trodden recent path of highly-rated British youngsters travelling abroad, there were noises from The Netherlands or Belgium.

Instead, it was Shropshire, and a sink-or-swim role as a League One regular. By complete chance, rather than travelling thousands of miles away, he would be able to move in with his aunt and uncle after the latter had just started work as a doctor at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Naomi says: "All last year he'd just worked so hard in the lockdown. While I was not knowing how to deal with it, he was outside, at the park, in the garden, trying to develop himself to the best player he could be.

"He didn't have any clue where he was going, but when he ended up in Shrewsbury, he just took off with it and has loved it ever since.

"I've never seen him so happy to be honest. To see him scoring goals, doing backflips."

While Nathanael started football aged five and was with City by 10, Naomi's path to sporting stardom was not always so clear-cut.

She didn't become as serious about athletics until aged 15 or 16 and was initially a sprinter. The Trafford Athletic Club star went to study politics at the University of Manchester, where she would practice improvised stand-up comedy in her spare time, to help with anxiety and competition nerves.

They are the children of Elayne and Mathias, parents who dedicated their lives to supporting their children's sporting aspirations. Naomi says her parents are at a loss as to what is behind their children's talents, beyond hard work and sacrifice – though she laughs "my dad was a triple jumper, he still holds the Lancashire long and triple jump records!"

For Naomi – who added 'Shrewsbury fan' to her Twitter profile biography after her brother's move to Shropshire – Elayne, and Mathias, watching Shrewsbury and Nathanael from afar while crowds aren't allowed has been an inspiring experience.

"Oh my goodness!" Naomi laughs. "My dad always sits in the chair closest to the TV, my mum sits a bit further away, with a pillow almost hiding the match.

"As Nathanael's running, mum will be moving up and down in the seat in sync with him, imitating every movement.

"Even if he just attempts a shot or something she will jump up. Dad's more chilled, he will just watch and nod his head.

Nathanael and Naomi recently celebrated their 20th and 23rd birthdays together in Manchester

"Mum used to know nothing about football and now she knows about formations, saying something's not quite right, we're like 'come on mum'. She's getting there though.

"They've watched every single match and they love it. Then they always get me to read the tweets about him."

Nathanael said of his older sister earlier in the season: "My sister is the best triple jumper in the UK, she's won British Championships seven times in a row.

"The hope for me is that she goes to the Olympics. We have no competition, we just push each other to be the best we can be.

"The relationship we have is amazing. I ended up moving out with her, that really strengthened our relationship.

"We really got into each other, we were working hard together in terms of preparing each other's mind to be better than yesterday.

"My sister had a real positive impact on me, seeing her smash it in athletics always drives me to do more and work harder.

"I was doing really well in football, playing for England and she was representing Great Britain.

"We were always on par but she's took it to a whole new level and I kind of got left behind, now I'm trying to come back.

"To have someone in my life like her is amazing because she pushes me each day.

"To see the work she did, even in the lockdown in the pandemic, the uncertainty of whether the Olympics is going to be on, really inspired me to go hard in every training session with everything I have."

Naomi admits she thought her younger brother would be leaving their home for a new club last June, but they remained together for another six months.

"The week quickly became two weeks, and a month and just didn't stop until he went to Shrewsbury, basically," she says with the same cheerful smile shared with her young brother.

"There are times he really motivates me, such as that first lockdown, there are also times when I'll inspire him, with things like diet.

"He had to learn how to cook! I've been sending him recipes, things to look out for in the shops, because diet is a really huge part of it and he just had to learn.

"We both motivate each other in different ways and push each other on. A lot of things that I learn from triple jump – I always remember him saying when he played for England in one of the youth championships – he had to take a penalty and he felt nervous, but he remembered every time I do a jump I'm on my own, by myself, he thinks if I can do that then he can take this penalty.

"I had to teach him how to cook different things, now he makes an incredible steak, nice grilled chicken.

Naomi Ogbeta competes in the Women's Triple Jump during day two of the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships at Emirates Arena, Glasgow..

"Growing up he didn't move out to Uni or anything like that, I had to quickly teach him how to start coming off mum's cooking."

Nathanael's bold, attacking, fearless performances in blue and amber have already cemented him as a real favourite in the eyes of the Shrewsbury faithful.

Yet his humble, smiley, passionate and thoughtful demeanour in interviews also won him a lot of support with fans. Naomi insists it is remembering where he has come from, a hard-working, family upbringing and a 'what you see is what you get' personality. The Ogbeta family, of Jamaican and Nigerian heritage, are devout Christians but Nathanael could not always attend church on Sundays due to football. It did not get away from his faith, which is strong and has helped him to where he is today.

His goals and assists from left wing-back delighted fans watching on iFollow, but none more so than the Ogbeta household back in Greater Manchester.

The 20-year-old celebrated a stunning strike in the fine win over Plymouth on Easter Monday with a cartwheel and backflip, a nod to his roots. Naomi responded, posting videos on social media of them as young children, flipping in the garden.

"When I used to tell people at school my brother plays football, they'd be like 'did he score any goals?' and I was like 'no, he's a left back'. That's not what he did," Naomi recalls.

"I saw he scored the free-kick – I know it was given as an own-goal – I was like 'what? Why is he taking free-kicks?!'

"He scored the other goals though and I was so happy, he was so thrilled as well.

Nathanael Ogbeta of Shrewsbury Town celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 3-0.

"I've always been a huge fan of his, and he always supports me in my things. But I had to get those slightly embarrassing videos out there! I've probably got more to come."

The Ogbetas are desperate to watch their son and brother play live at Montgomery Waters Meadow. She adds: "It is a shame. It's nice watching on the TV and the coverage is great but I do thing it would be really nice watching him in the stadium and seeing the fans.

"When he scores, to be able to hear their reaction, that would've been really cool.

"We always said how cool would it be if we go to an Olympics together? If he did the football and I did the triple jump.

"But for him, things like the World Cup – we always wanted to represent our country doing our sport for people who appreciate it.

"That's the thing at Shrewsbury, he feels so appreciated and makes such a difference for his confidence as well."

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