Photos: Born without feet, Indonesian goalkeeper Eman Sulaeman kicks home a message

Fans snapped pictures and cheered during a futsal match in West Jawa, Indonesia as Eman Sulaeman protected his net by shifting quickly on stumps and his one leg -- the other missing from the knee down. The 30-year-old Indonesian goalkeeper who was born without feet is wowing crowds at home and abroad with his "cat-like" reflexes, and sending a powerful message about people with disabilities. Sulaeman -- who runs an electronics repair shop -- is determined to spread his love for the sport by establishing a futsal lover's community in his hometown Majalengka and coach football at several local junior high schools.

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST 9 Photos
1 / 9
When Eman Sulaeman (R) begged his parents as a child to let him play football, the couple worried their son -- born with no feet and just one full leg -- would be mocked. “I cried for days, begging them to buy me a ball,” he said, in the small town of Indramayu, 220 kilometres east of Jakarta. “They relented and went out to find me a cheap plastic ball.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

When Eman Sulaeman (R) begged his parents as a child to let him play football, the couple worried their son -- born with no feet and just one full leg -- would be mocked. “I cried for days, begging them to buy me a ball,” he said, in the small town of Indramayu, 220 kilometres east of Jakarta. “They relented and went out to find me a cheap plastic ball.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
2 / 9
It hasn’t been easy for Sulaeman -- a big fan of former Manchester United keeper Edwin Van Der Sar and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo -- who had to train tirelessly to get where he is. “I spent a long time learning to walk in balance before I was able to kick the ball,” he said. (Adek Berry / AFP)

It hasn’t been easy for Sulaeman -- a big fan of former Manchester United keeper Edwin Van Der Sar and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo -- who had to train tirelessly to get where he is. “I spent a long time learning to walk in balance before I was able to kick the ball,” he said. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
3 / 9
Now, two decades later, the 30-year-old Indonesian goalkeeper is wowing crowds at home and abroad with his “cat-like” reflexes, and knocking home a powerful message about people with disabilities. At a recent futsal match his fans came out in full support, waiting for a selfie with their hero. (Adek Berry / AFP)

Now, two decades later, the 30-year-old Indonesian goalkeeper is wowing crowds at home and abroad with his “cat-like” reflexes, and knocking home a powerful message about people with disabilities. At a recent futsal match his fans came out in full support, waiting for a selfie with their hero. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
4 / 9
His perseverance paid off when friends asked him to join the local football team as he completed an electronic engineering degree. “At my first tournament, the other team’s manager doubted me and asked if I really could play,” he said. Despite the challenges posed by his birth defect, Sulaeman never considered wearing prosthetic legs. (Adek Berry / AFP)

His perseverance paid off when friends asked him to join the local football team as he completed an electronic engineering degree. “At my first tournament, the other team’s manager doubted me and asked if I really could play,” he said. Despite the challenges posed by his birth defect, Sulaeman never considered wearing prosthetic legs. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
5 / 9
The only time he wore shoes was for a match in Scotland, Sulaeman said, adding that it was to allay organisers’ safety concerns. In 2016, he joined the Indonesian team at the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. The annual football tournament raises awareness about homelessness and involves homeless players as well as drug addicts, asylum seekers and disabled athletes. (Adek Berry / AFP)

The only time he wore shoes was for a match in Scotland, Sulaeman said, adding that it was to allay organisers’ safety concerns. In 2016, he joined the Indonesian team at the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. The annual football tournament raises awareness about homelessness and involves homeless players as well as drug addicts, asylum seekers and disabled athletes. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
6 / 9
An instant sensation, Sulaeman was crowned the competition’s best goalkeeper. “It was unreal. My first time ever being abroad and I was named the best goalie,” he said. It was there British media praised Sulaeman and his “cat-like reflexes”. “People with disabilities like me and poor people can all unite without being looked down upon or stigmatised.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

An instant sensation, Sulaeman was crowned the competition’s best goalkeeper. “It was unreal. My first time ever being abroad and I was named the best goalie,” he said. It was there British media praised Sulaeman and his “cat-like reflexes”. “People with disabilities like me and poor people can all unite without being looked down upon or stigmatised.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
7 / 9
Eman Sulaeman (C) attempts possession of the ball during a futsal match. His talents have caught the attention of West Java’s sports agency, lifting hopes that the government might boost its support for disabled athletes. (Adek Berry / AFP)

Eman Sulaeman (C) attempts possession of the ball during a futsal match. His talents have caught the attention of West Java’s sports agency, lifting hopes that the government might boost its support for disabled athletes. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
8 / 9
Sulaeman -- who runs an electronics repair shop -- is determined to spread his love for the sport by establishing a futsal lover’s community in his hometown Majalengka and coach football at local schools. “Football for me is just like my wife. My girlfriend is even jealous of it because I love it too much,” Sulaeman laughed. (Adek Berry / AFP)

Sulaeman -- who runs an electronics repair shop -- is determined to spread his love for the sport by establishing a futsal lover’s community in his hometown Majalengka and coach football at local schools. “Football for me is just like my wife. My girlfriend is even jealous of it because I love it too much,” Sulaeman laughed. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST
9 / 9
He dreams of competing in a major event like the Paralympic Games one day, and hopes that he will continue to be an inspiration for other disabled athletes. “We must stay confident and motivated to bring out the potential in ourselves,” he said. “Although we (disabled people) have limitations, within those limitations there are extraordinary things.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

He dreams of competing in a major event like the Paralympic Games one day, and hopes that he will continue to be an inspiration for other disabled athletes. “We must stay confident and motivated to bring out the potential in ourselves,” he said. “Although we (disabled people) have limitations, within those limitations there are extraordinary things.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2018 09:39 AM IST

[OTHER GALLERIES]

SHARE
Story Saved