On Wednesday, Sporting Lisbon completed the signing of a 17-year-old Indonesian footballer. His name is Martunis.
The story of who this young Indonesian is may be for some, too hard to believe. But for those who are informed of where he has come from and what he has been through, it is safe to say that Sporting Lisbon may have just signed what many hope will become one of the most widely loved and admired stars of his generation.
At eight years of age, Martunis was in his hometown of Aceh in Indonesia when a Tsunami hit. This Tsunami was the infamous disaster that took place in December of 2004 claiming the lives of roughly 230,000 people.
Three weeks after the disaster, Martunis was still listed as missing. His town of Aceh was unquestionably the worst affected area with 170,000 lives claimed. Among those lost were Martunis’ mother and two sisters while Martunis himself, was presumed dead.
How could an 8 year old boy survive one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the planet and then go on living for three weeks without help?
The giant wave that claimed the lives of so many had carried the 8 year old boy to sea, to what should have been his death. Instead, 21 days after the Tsunami hit, Martunis was found alive, stranded on a swampy area of land near the beach.
He had survived by eating and drinking whatever he found floating in the ocean. Items that had been torn from peoples homes and carried out with him to the deep blue.
Martunis had reportedly clung to a school chair, a mattress, a big log and finally a sofa as he was pulled into the ocean and then deposited in the swamp. He could not swim.
After 21 days, just as the food had run out, Martunis was found and delivered to a Sky News journalist. And that is where at last, Martunis had some luck.
Before the Tsunami struck, the young Indonesian had been playing football with his friends in his village of Tibang, about 7 km north of the provincial capital Banda Aceh.
As was his love for the game, he was playing in his favourite item of clothing which was a number 10 Portugal jersey with Rui Costa’s name strewn across the back. When the wave came to take him away, he was wearing the jersey. As he survived for 3 weeks on his own, he was wearing the jersey, and when he was found, he was still in a number 10 Portugal jersey.
The story of the boy who lived, took the footballing world by storm. Particularly in Portugal where Cristiano Ronaldo, then playing for Manchester United, heard about young Martunis and decided that he wanted to help. Ronaldo paid for the house that Martunis had lived in to be rebuilt so that his family could have a home again.
Five months later, Ronaldo invited Martunis and his father Sarbini to Portugal to meet him and the rest of the Portuguese national team.
After that, Ronaldo himself visited Martunis in Aceh, giving him a mobile phone with contact numbers for many of the players on the Portuguese national team.
After being rescued, when asked about his survival, Martunis said: “I was not afraid at all at that time because I still wanted to be alive to meet my family and to be a football player.”
Today, he has achieved that dream, and football fans around the world will now watch him with great interest. Whatever awaits is as of yet unknown but for Martunis, the opportunity he has always waited for, has finally arrived.