The story of Martunis, a child of only 7 years of age who survived the horrors of the 2004 tsunami in Acheh, Indonesia on 26 December and was found alive after floating at sea for 21 days was one that made media headlines across the world at the time.
Perhaps even more heartwarming was the fact that the young football fan was found still donning the Portugal football team jersey that he was wearing when he got swept away by the current, which caught the attention of Cristiano Ronaldo himself.
It may seem quite elementary to some, but that small twist of fate has forever changed the path of Martunis, now a football player himself with Portuguese club, Sporting Lisbon.
Fortunately, the editorial team at The Malaya Post was able to track down Martunis for a brief catch up.
This story takes a look back at the past 15 years in the life of this wonder kid. From his initial meeting with the world-renowned football star, Cristiano Ronaldo, who continues to sport the number 7 jersey with clubs Juventus and Portugal, leading up to Martunis’ current stint with Sporting Lisbon.
At the time of this interview with The Malaya Post, this 22-year-old native of Tibang, Shia district of Kuala, Banda Aceh, Indonesia was in the midst of training sessions with Sporting Lisbon, in which he plays Forward.
The Malaya Post: Assamualaikum and thank you for making time for The Malaya Post.
First of all, take us through your initial meeting with football star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Martunis: Waalaikumussalam. The pleasure is all mine. Well, to start things off, the tsunami in Acheh occured in 2004. At the time I was wearing a Portugal football jersey, with Rui Costa’s name emblazoned at the back. So when the news broke that I was found alive after so many days, all the foreign media outlets came to Acheh to cover the story and eventually it came to the attention of Ronaldo himself.
At one point I was even asked to mail the jersey I was wearing all the way to Portugal, as a form of verification that I was indeed Martunis, the child who was rescued from the tsunami wearing that fateful Portugal jersey.
Then in 2005, Cristiano Ronaldo came to Acheh to meet us. After which, my father and I were invited to visit Portugal. While we were there, Ronaldo had asked that I continue to stay on longer, but my father was not a big fan of the idea since I was still just a young boy at the time.
The Malaya Post: Does Ronaldo respect your beliefs as Muslim?
Martunis: Yes, he respects my religion very much and has never once asked me to change my religion, and in fact he even asks me questions that he has about Islam. He also has great respect for all Muslims all over the world.
The Malaya Post : We understand that you are now following very closely in Ronaldo’s footsteps, can you tell us more about when you actually started playing and for which team?
Martunis : Certainly. Well, in 2014 Ronaldo was once again invited to Indonesia by the then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to be a Magrove ambassador in Bali. Ronaldo then invited me to Bali to meet him there, and it was then that he extended the invitation for me to train with the Sporting Lisbon Football Academy in Portugal.
Martunis: I did make the trip there and trained with them for about a year, but then I had to come back home to Indonesia due to some personal reasons.
The Malaya Post : Surely the star has shared a few tips and tricks regarding the beautiful game?
Martunis: Honestly, all the skills I developed so far I learned myself, with some help from the Sporting Lisbon coach. Ronaldo has never trained me personally.
The Malaya Post : Fans will surely be interested to know how you and your family communicate with Ronaldo on a long-term basis.
Martunis: To tell you the truth, I have never actually had any completely direct communication with Ronaldo, instead it was all done through an intermediary, which is Ronaldo’s assistant in Portugal, since he is such a busy man.
The Malaya Post : So would you say it was your talent or your connection with Ronaldo which has brought you to Sporting Lisbon?
Martunis: I am able to play with the Sporting Academy of Lisbon because of my talent and not because of Ronaldo. However, the opportunity to train with them arose with Ronaldo’s help. After that, I was invited to try out at Sporting Lisbon, and my career with them got off to a kick-start from then on.
At the time of this interview, The Malaya Post received excellent cooperation not only from Martunis but also his assistant Mustafa.
He adds, “just so everyone knows, Ronaldo continues to be extremely supportive of my career in Portugal.
“Even up to this day, we continue to maintain a nice and close relationship,” he says, wrapping up the exclusive interview with The Malaya Post.
The Team at The Malaya Post would like to wish Martunis all the best, and may he continue to excel!