It looks like the fairytale of Aceh tsunami survivor Martunis is nearing its end, at least in terms of his soccer career.
The nation’s hopes of finally producing a world-class soccer player were riding high on the 20-year-old after he joined the youth academy of Sporitng Lisbon, one of Portugal’s greatest soccer clubs, in 2015. But, in what is a testament to just how competitive top level soccer can be, Martunis now finds himself back in his home province trying his hand in law enforcement.
Martunis has recently applied to join the Aceh Provincial Police Academy. However, that does not necessarily indicate his professional soccer career has ended – should he get into the academy, he could play in Indonesia’s top league for Bekasi-based Bhayangkara Football Club, which is majority-owned by the National Police.
“Take for example Evan Dimas (Indonesian National Team player). He’s a soccer player who became a cop and then joined Bhayangkara FC,” said Aceh Provincial Police Spokesman Commissioner Goenawan, as quoted by Detik.
Martunis made headlines all over the world over the past few years due to his unlikely tale of survival. On December 26, 2004, Martunis lost his mother and two siblings in Aceh during the catastrophic Boxing Day tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.
Martunis was only seven at the time, and he survived for 21 days stranded on a beach all by himself. When he was found, he was wearing the Portuguese national football team jersey.
When asked how he had managed to survive, Matunis said: “I was not afraid at all because I wanted to be alive to meet my family and become a football player.”
His story moved the people of Portugal, leading to an outpouring of support. The Portuguese Football Association even donated the money to pay for the rebuilding of Martunis’ house.
Then, in 2005, Cristiano Ronaldo himself visited Martunis in Aceh and promised to pay for his education. Ronaldo also invited Martunis to visit Sporting Lisbon’s grounds someday.
But few expected him to actually join Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy in 2015. Soon, doubts began to emerge about his talents on the pitch, as it was revealed that he didn’t even make the cut to join Indonesia’s U-17 squad, raising questions about his ability to play at a higher level in Portugal.
Now those questions have been answered as Martunis’ best hope for playing professional soccer appears to be for Bhayangkara FC, a mid-table Indonesian team.