Martunis was seven years old when he met Cristiano Ronaldo. The boy was called a “miracle” after he survived alone, clinging to a sofa for 21 days after the 2004 Tsunami that devastated Indonesia, killing 230,000 people — including Martunis’ family. When he was finally rescued there were images of the boy wearing a Portugal national team jersey, prompting Ronaldo to fly out and meet him.
This was no simple meet-and-greet. Ronaldo, who was just 20-years old at the time, was so moved by Martunis and that he made a commitment to his future. Ronaldo paid for Martunis’ education, and took care of the costs associated with rebuilding his family home.
A child who had lost everything had a mentor. Ronaldo was committed to ensuring Martunis’ life got better after suffering so much when he was so young. Ronaldo would travel frequently to meet him. The soccer superstar donated money to charities in the region and spearheaded a movement to raise awareness for the importance of environmental conservation of mangrove forests, which operate as natural shields for tsunamis.
Soccer was always a part of this story, albeit in the background. Martunis was kicking the ball around when the tsunami hit his island on Dec. 26, 2004. He always loved the game and over the years had progressively gotten better and better.
In 2015 he was good enough to make Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy, and this week he reached another milestone — being selected to the team’s U19 squad.
There is a very real chance he could play for the senior team soon enough. The team that Ronaldo first played for as a professional. Martunis was more than a nice meet-and-greet story from 13 years ago, he was a boy who was given a second chance at life thanks to the actions and generosity of Ronaldo.
Now Martunis considers Ronaldo his adoptive father. He’s taken the name “Martunis Ronaldo” on his Facebook page. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this entire story is how quiet it all was. You need to dig deep to find out about how generous Ronaldo was over the years, and that is one of the most touching parts of the this story. Just an incredible athlete making a difference and changing a life.