Free Press Journal

Tsunami-surviving footballer Martunis meets idol Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo

Cascais (Portugal): Tsunami survivor Martunis of Indonesia met his idol and Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo after following in his footsteps by joining Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy.

The 17-year-old shared an image of him with the Real Madrid striker at the Portugal team hotel here on Friday, reported on Wednesday.

The young Indonesian also added the message: “Obrigado (Thank you) @Cristiano, see you on Friday”, perhaps in reference to Portugal’s friendly against France that evening.

Lisbon signed Martunis to their academy in July, 11 years after the disaster that forced him to survive on puddle water for 21 days, which killed his mother and two brothers.

Martunis, now 17, was unveiled in the Portuguese capital last month having pursued his dream in spite of the desolation brought on by the disaster that hit his home in Indonesia on Boxing Day 2004.

The giant waves, caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean, killed 2,30,000 people across 14 countries and separated the young boy from his family and left him to live off some noodles he had found and water from puddles.

Martunis grew up in Banda Aceh, Indonesia and attended English classes three times a week in addition to a football school in his home city.

Ronaldo met with Martunis in the aftermath of the disaster after images of him in a Portugal shirt — he was playing football when the 9.3 magnitude earthquake struck – hit headlines across the world.

At the time, Ronaldo said: “I believe that many adults would not even be able to deal with what he has gone through. We must respect him. His was an act of strength and maturity. He’s a special kid.”

When found by a group of journalists wandering the beaches of the Indonesian city, Martunis needed a saline drip due to the dehydration he had suffered, while he was also said to be frail and badly bitten after the 21-day ordeal.

A member of the ‘Save the Children’ team who delivered him to hospital said that had he been found a day later he may not have survived.

Martunis was later reunited with his father but his siblings and mother were among the many casualties in one of the world’s worst natural disasters.

The seven-year-old’s home was rebuilt with money sent by the Portuguese FA and raised by Ronaldo’s fundraising efforts before he met his hero three years later.