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Temile thrives in the city

Frank Temile

Frank Temile

Aged only 17, Frank Temile is still in the formative stages of his career but his towering impact on Valletta FC suggests that the forward is poised for greater achievements.

Valletta are in seventh heaven after continuing their resurgence with a 4-0 roasting of rivals Floriana last weekend and Temile's exhilarating performances have been central to the Citizens' three-match winning run.

Signed up as Valletta's third foreigner in summer, Temile's arrival was not accompanied by the fanfare that punctuated the club's hectic transfer campaign but those who had seen him train and play for Valletta's junior strings knew that the club had unearthed a gem.

His dynamic displays have drawn envious looks from other clubs who are still wondering how this talented boy registered on Valletta's radar. Temile takes up the story.

"I was playing in Nigeria for a team called Sunshine Stars and everything was going ok for me," Temile told The Times yesterday.

"My manager, Henry Ekezie, got in touch and suggested that I come to Malta. At the time, I had other opportunities. I had an offer to go to Dubai but I had problems getting a visa.

"To be honest, I knew nothing about Malta but Henry moved quickly to sort out all the visa arrangements and I arrived here in September 2006.

"Before travelling to Malta, my manager only told me that I would have some trials and eventually I joined Valletta.

"In Nigeria, the perception is that the level of football is good in all European countries. Moving to a new country at the age of 16 was not easy but my intention was to work hard and prove myself, always with the help of God.

"Thanks also to Kevin Gauci (Valletta FC committee member), I settled down quickly and finally got the chance to play for Valletta.

"My dream has always been to play for a top club and Valletta are certainly one of the biggest in Malta."

A visibly elated Gauci, Temile's legal guardian, is happy that his "adopted son" is proving his worth.

"The only information I had about Frank was that he was regarded as one of the best upcoming players in his country," Gauci commented.

"As a member of the Valletta committee and president of the club's nursery at the time, I followed up interest in Temile but I was unaware of the FIFA restriction on the movement of youth players.

"In January this year, I engaged the services of a lawyer with a view to making a request to FIFA to give Temile dispensation to play in Malta on the basis that such restriction shouldn't apply to a player whose parents are both dead.

"I received great support from my fellow committee members, friends and fans of Valletta and I was overjoyed when we got news that our case had been upheld.

"Paul Zammit made a big decision last summer to assign the team's third foreigner slot to Temile. I was happy with his choice but apprehensive at the same time, even though I was confident that Temile would not let us down."

Things are now looking up for Temile who has had a difficult upbringing.

"I lost my mother when I was three and my father died when I was almost 12," Temile recounted. "It was difficult coping alone with my brothers and sisters but that's life. You have to work hard and believe in God.

"To be honest, I didn't expect things to evolve so quickly but I'm happy to have earned the chance to play for Valletta.

"I get excited before every game but I'm grateful to God for giving me the strength to play and give my best."

Temile comes from a football family. His uncle, who resides in Israel, was capped by Nigeria several times and his brother, Omonigho Temile, plays in Russia and is reportedly set to join Bulgaria's CSKA Sofia next month.

The younger, Malta-based Temile is eager to follow in his brother's footsteps but at present, his focus is on Valletta and their quest to reach the summit of Maltese football.

A tentative start to the season raised doubts about Valletta's credentials to challenge for the title but successive wins over Birkirkara, Marsaxlokk and Floriana have reinstated the Citizens among the main contenders.

"When a club spends a lot of money on new players, people expect things to click straightaway but that's not always the case," Temile, who made his debut for Valletta in the 2-1 defeat to Sliema in October, said.

"You have to give new players time to get used to each other. It has taken Valletta a while to get going but we've been playing well lately and if we stay united, we can move forward.

"The team was still looking for the right balance when I came in but I'm glad about our performances in the last three games. I'm doing my best and I'm glad that the fans are happy with my contribution."

Temile may have made an instant mark on Valletta but he admits to being awestruck upon learning that coach Zammit had chosen him as the team's third foreigner.

"I was delighted when the coach told me that I was going to be in his squad but I also knew that I was facing a tough challenge," Temile reminisced.

"It was a dream come true and I cannot but thank the committee, coach and the supporters for the respect they have shown me.

"I am also indebted to Kevin for the faith he showed in me. He and his family have been very kind to me.

"I feel comfortable with them and I regard them as my family."

Cautious optimism

Temile is still a teenager but he talks with the assurance and maturity that one normally associates with someone who has been at the top of his profession for decades.

This was evident in his reply to a question about Valletta's title prospects.

"I won't say that Valletta will win the title," Temile remarked. "If we continue to play like we have lately, we have a chance."

As for Valletta's main rivals for the title, Temile said: "The league is very confused at the moment. The teams are very close to each other but I think that Sliema, Hibs and maybe Birkirkara could emerge as main contenders."

After opening his scoring account with an opportunistic strike in Valletta's 7-0 win over Marsaxlokk, Temile stole the show with a superb individual effort that put the icing on his side's 4-0 win over Floriana.

"Scoring in the derby gave me a great feeling," Temile enthused.

"I had the opportunity to watch three derbies between Valletta and Floriana before I started to play for the team. I believe every player wants to be involved in games like this and I was so happy to score for Valletta on Saturday."

Temile is relishing every minute of his time as a Valletta player and although his long-term ambition is to pursue his career in a top European footballing nation, he doesn't regret his decision to leave Nigeria for Malta.

"I'm still young and at present, I'm only concentrating on playing well for Valletta," Temile said. "I'm prepared to give my all to take the team forward because I love the club and the supporters.

"I think I've made the right decision to come and play here."

Given the luxury of choosing the club he wants to play for in the future, Temile unhesitatingly replied: "Manchester United. I visited Manchester twice when I was younger to take part in the Umbro Festival with my school team.

"I like the place as well as Manchester United."

Valletta coach Zammit believes that Temile has what it takes to carve out a professional career in football.

"When, at the start of the season, I made the decision to promote Temile to the squad, I had a great belief in his potential and I'm glad that he has proved me right," Zammit said.

"The lad is still very young but I'm certain that the experience of playing for a prominent club like Valletta will stand him in good stead.

"I am confident that Temile can play in a top-level league in Europe... he's a player who can emulate Udo Nwoko, another Nigerian youngster who's now playing in Portugal."

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