Mikey Poulli is a brave young boy who is defying the odds of playing soccer, despite losing his eyesight at the age of seven.
The UK Cypriot youngster has always dreamed of professionally playing football, but after a random eye test when Mikey was six years old, doctors discovered he had a disease of the retina called ‘rod-cone dystrophy'.
Specialists originally estimated that it would take 10-20 years for Mikey to lose his sight, but unfortunately, in just 18 months he completely lost his vision. Mikey's father John said, "Doctors were astonished how quickly Mikey lost his vision after having near perfect vision, they can not explain it.”
Even after completely losing his vision, Mikey’s interest and ambitions for football didn’t stop. The young boy became involved in blind football, which his parents were unaware of until his condition surfaced.
“It gives me great joy seeing Mikey run around playing football, especially since he cannot see,” adds John.
The soccer ball that Mikey uses when playing soccer is “heavy so it stays low, and can be quite dangerous if it hits your head. It has aluminum plates and ball bearings which make a noise. This is the only way blind players can follow the ball,” says John.
"When Mikey approaches the goalpost to shoot, he needs to build up a vision of the pitch and the goals in his mind and always be spatially aware. The goalkeeper also calls out so he can focus on the goal."
Mikey’s natural talent always shows on the field, and he has 1 to 1 weekly England training, monthly group sessions with England football team at Brighton FC’s training centre, and twice a month he trains at Tottenham, his proud father tells us.
With all the training, favourite Mikey also has a huge appetite and loves Greek dishes including, “Souvla at yiayia and pappou's house almost every weekend, and he especially loves grilled halloumi, pita, and taramasalata!”
Not only is Mikey a star on the soccer field, but he also loves learning Greek dancing “and is very well coordinated. He listens to instructions well and is able to execute almost perfectly,” says John.
The young boy’s football hero is Cristiano Ronaldo, and his favourite team is Arsenal and Mikey was over the moon when he met Sokratis Papastathopoulos, a Greek professional footballer who currently plays centre back for Arsenal. John said that “Mikey loved meeting Sokratis, he was very kind showing affection, hugs, and kisses. He liked him a lot.”
“Mikey just loves playing football all the time, every day, every opportunity, and aspires to win the World Cup and be top goalscorer.”