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A Boy Who Survived Indonesia's Tsunami In A Soccer Jersey Just Fulfilled His Dream Of Becoming A Pro Soccer Player

"It is my dream."

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Three weeks after a devastating tsunami hit several Indian Ocean countries in 2004, seven-year-old Martunis was found on an Indonesian beach wearing a Portugal Soccer Jersey. Eleven years on, he just signed a contract with Portugal's Lisbon Sporting team.

Martunis survived for 21 days by himself on the beach in the Banda Aceh region by clinging to trees and living off of dried noodles and puddle water.

He lost his mother and siblings to the tsunami that killed over 230,000 people, but was eventually reunited with his father and grandparents.

"On the morning of the tsunami I was playing football with my friends,," Martunis told the BBC. "At first I stood on a school chair, but when that started to sink, I got up onto a mattress. When that started sinking as well I clung to a big tree that was floating on the water. The tree brought me to the seafront."


The now 17-year-old has maintained a relationship with renowned soccer player Cristiano Renaldo since the Portugal team member vowed to pay for his education in 2005, according to ESPN.

After he was found and reunited with his father, he was flown by rescue missions to Lisbon to meet his soccer player heroes and watch a game. It was there he met Ronaldo, who agreed to pay for his education. The Portugal team also gave money to rebuild Martunis' family's home.

"I believe that many adults would not even be able to deal with what he has gone through," ESPN reported Ronaldo saying at the time. "We must respect him. His was an act of strength and maturity. He's a special kid."

Though Martunis was not legally adopted by Renaldo, he has publicly taken his last name and refers to himself as Ronaldo's "adopted son" on social media.

At the time, ESPN reported that Martunis said he was not afraid "because I wanted to be alive to meet my family and become a [soccer] player."

It seems his life-long dream may finally be coming true.

Last week the young player was officially signed to Sporting Lisbon, the same high-profile club Ronaldo began his career with.

He will join the club's academy and play with its youth team in Alcochete, Portugal, ESPN reported.

At a gala thrown by the club, Martunis said in a speech, "I am really happy to be [here] ... It is my dream and I really thank you for the opportunity."

Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Ema O'Connor at

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