Football fans in Indonesia rejoiced after news broke that Martunis, a 17-year-old tsunami survivor from Aceh province, signed with Portugal’s football giants Sporting Lisbon.
Sporting Lisbon announced Thursday that Martunis had joined its youth academy, where his favourite player Cristiano Ronaldo honed his talents as a youngster.
“@martunisCR8 has joined the Club! The young boy that survived the tsunami will work and grow at #SportingCP,” Sporting said on its official Twitter feed.
The news was greeted with enthusiasm in Indonesia, where football has come under the spotlight for more negative reasons in recent weeks. The national football association is under FIFA suspension over government interference.
“Martunis sends shock waves,” read a headline on Indonesian football website soccer.co.id.
“At the time when Indonesian football is facing uncertainty, good news emerged from a faraway land, Portugal,” it said.
“Bravo Martunis. What an inspiring story,” said Annisa Pohan, a daughter-in-law of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on Twitter.
Martunis was found alive 21 days after Indian Ocean tsunami hit Aceh province on December 26, 2004. His mother and two siblings were killed.
He was wearing a Portugal national team jersey when found in a swampy area after drifting for days at sea.
At the time, he said: “I was not afraid at all because I wanted to be alive to meet my family and become a football player.”
Portugal’s Football Association donated €40,000 to help rebuild Martunis’ house.
Ronaldo visited him in Aceh in 2005 and promised to pay for his education. He also invited Martunis to visit Sporting Lisbon’s ground.
Martunis has Christiano Ronaldo’s initials in his Twitter account, which also shows him in a picture with his idol.
“It’s great to be here, this club makes my dream possible,” he said at his presentation in Lisbon, according to the club’s website. “I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. Viva Sporting!”