Blindness can’t stop 10-year-old Greek Cypriot Mikey Poulli, who lives in London, from pursuing his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.
After his parents took him for a routine eye exam when he was just six years of age, they received the shock of their lives upon hearing that he suffered from a rare condition called rod-cone dystrophy.
Before the check-up, the boy’s parents hadn’t noticed any change in his vision, Mikey’s father, John Poulli, stated to Greek Reporter.
Tragically, doctors informed the family that the incurable genetic condition would result in blindness in just a few short years.
While the young athlete remained fully sighted for a few months after his diagnosis, his parents began to notice some differences in his behavior, including accidents, due to vision loss.
Unfortunately, within 18 months of his diagnosis, Mikey was left completely blind.
The fearless boy never let his diagnosis stop him, however, and his parents supported him in all of his endeavors.
Asked what he would tell parents in similar situations, Poulli stresses that parents should “be there for their child in any capacity,” by “supporting them with anything they want to do.”
Life is life 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/YIqqFjV6pg
— Mikey Poulli (@mikeypoulli) November 1, 2018
Playing despite blindness
An avid soccer fan, particularly of the team Arsenal, Mikey loved watching matches with his dad from his earliest years, who introduced him the the sport, and played quite a bit of it himself.
The young athlete, who his father says was a “natural at many sports,” started playing soccer at a club at the tender young age of just five years.
After his condition progressed, the dedicated boy continued playing his favorite sport even though he couldn’t see. Unfortunately, he had to stop playing with his soccer club because of safety concerns.
Despite these roadblocks, Mikey remained adamant that he would become a professional soccer player, and continued to play the sport with his family whenever he could.
After watching their son’s soccer skills flourish, the boy’s parents realized that he was a “phenomenon,” as his father John states, and he should cultivate his talents even further by playing on a team.
— Mikey Poulli (@mikeypoulli) December 1, 2020
Mikey’s dreams come true
After starting to play soccer with a team of other visually-impaired children at a special center, a soccer coach took notice of the young man’s natural abilities.
The coach was so impressed with Mikey’s talent that he called for scouts from the Football Association (FA), the governing body of soccer in England, to watch the boy play.
Mikey’s father, John, tells Greek Reporter that although his son was very happy to play for the FA scouts, he was quite calm because “he always knew he would be a professional footballer.”
John, however, was “surprised and shocked,” at the news, “but also so proud and excited” for his son, who is a wonder at the sport.
The FA representatives, stunned by his skill, offered the young athlete one-to-one coaching by a specialist, giving him hope that he could play for England one day.
Since then, he has continued training at his favorite sport with England’s top coaches.
World Cup goals for blind soccer player
In fact, the boy is such a talented player, that his father “still can’t believe what he can do with a football.”
Full of skill and flair, Mikey loves shooting, scoring goals, and also perfecting some marvelous tricks.
The young football star’s dream is to “win the World Cup with England and become a top goal scorer,” his father says.
A massive fan of Arsenal, the young soccer whizz’s favorite player at the moment is Pierre-Emerick Emiliano François Aubameyang, a striker on the team.
— Mikey Poulli (@mikeypoulli) February 4, 2021
He also loves Greek player Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who left Arsenal in January for Olympiakos, a Greek team. Papastathopoulos, known widely as just “Sokratis,” was born in Kalamata.
The Greek Cypriot athlete is proud of his roots as well, and he and his family visit “the homelands” Greece and Cyprus every year, his father John says.
Raising awareness for rod-cone dystrophy and blindness
Mikey’s dedication to his dream and awe-inspiring natural talent have attracted the attention of the world, including soccer star Lionel Messi, who recently gave the boy a pair of life-changing artificial vision glasses.
Despite his many successes, the young soccer player and his parents have never given up hope in finding a cure for his condition.
They are currently not only seeking help from specialists and eye doctors who have experience with the disease, but also looking to raise awareness about the rare disorder.
The more people who are inspired “by Mikey’s journey and amazing talent,” John says, and share his story, the closer we come to learning more about rod-cone dystrophy, and even potentially finding a cure.
“There’s nothing more I want in the world than for Mikey to see me again,” his father expresses.
Related video: Watch an interview with Mikey Pouli’s parents: