Football: THE LOST BOY; EXCLUSIVE Israel Star Can Make Father Who Dumped Him So Proud Brought from Nigeria at 3.. Abandoned at 8.. on the Run at 13.. Now Ready to Shock England at 19

Article excerpt


KENTISH Town FC is a far cry from the Ramat Gan Stadium which tonight hosts the biggest game of Steve McClaren's reign as England manager.

But there is a surprising family link between the small Spartan League club in north London and Israel's most dangerous striker, who was actually born in Nigeria.

Kentish Town manager Clement Temile, a legendary Nigeria footballer and former African Player of the Year, will be a very proud - if distant - father when 19-year-old Toto Tamuz lines-up against England in Tel Aviv.

Tamuz has taken an incredible journey to face England. He was abandoned by his parents as a three-year-old, lived in fear as an illegal immigrant and is now fighting a court battle to become an Israeli citizen.

Tamuz has never forgiven his father for abandoning him as a child and has not spoken to Temile, 42, for 15 months. But Temile, who played his club football in Israel for five years, insisted: "I will send him emails and text messages to wish him luck.

"He was three years old when we went to Israel and now he speaks the language, enjoys living there and three-quarters of his body is with Israel.

"I am so proud of him and I will watch and cheer for him from the bottom of my heart. He is a good striker - strong, quick and powerful.

"He has done very well in Israel even though he's had some problems with getting residency. But he's stayed there even if he could do well in Europe.

"I know that Seville looked at him and are interested and he would even be a good player in the Premiership."

Tamuz now plays for Beitar Jerusalem, is the top scorer in the Israeli League and is so valued in the national team that the government rushed through a special temporary residency form so he could play against England.

Tamuz's colourful and difficult upbringing when he saw little of his father means that he has a Nigerian passport but wants an Israeli passport and sat out his adopted nation's last game with Ukraine to ensure he got his way.

When he was just three, young Toto moved in with his father's team-mate, Yitzchak Gueta in Petach Tikva. Eventually, the Temiles left Israel, and their then eight-year-old son went to live with Orit Tamuz from whom he gets his name.

Although he refers to her as his mother, she was unable to legally adopt him. Orit, 43, a marketing executive, never married. "Toto is one of my strongest reasons for getting up in the morning with a smile," she said.

Tamuz was raised as a Jew, speaks Hebrew and is currently fighting a legal case to get himself Israeli citizenship and is keen to do national service in the army. …