An eight-year-old boy refuses to give up on his dream of becoming a footballer after going blind a year ago, and is now training with England.
Mikey Poulli, from London, lost his sight last year after being diagnosed with an inherited rare eye condition, rod cone dystrophy, for which there is no cure. When his local football team said he could no longer play with them because it could be dangerous for him and other players, his family didn’t give up. “This broke his (and our) heart,” his dad John tells HuffPost UK.
The family found a visually impaired session at Tottenham Football Club at its Centre of Excellence. “The coach there took one look at Mikey’s ability and ball control and called me up the next day to ask for my consent to contact the English FA,” explains John.
“He has since taken part in monthly group sessions with England football team at Brighton FC’s training centre, and received FA funding for weekly sessions. Jon Pugh [Team GB and England blind football head coach], I’ve been told, is counting down the days until he is old enough to play for the national team already.”
On 2 November 2018, a video of Mikey - featuring a montage of clips of him playing football - was shared widely on Twitter, prompting his dad to share his story.
Despite having no symptoms of the rare eye condition as he was growing up, a routine test in 2016 revealed some issues. Up until he was six, he could see and do anything like a normal child but after his diagnosis, Mikey’s life changed dramatically. “It devastated his vision in a year and he was completely blind at seven years old,” John says.
Mikey has loved football (and more specifically Arsenal, like his dad) since he was a child and it was the one thing his family didn’t want to take away from him. Thankfully, Mikey proved - with his training sessions at Tottenham - that he didn’t have to give up on his dream.
Now, Mikey is able to enjoy football as much as he did as he was growing up. “He wakes up every morning and puts on YouTube clips of Arsenal goals (or any football really) to hear the commentary and the crowds’ reactions,” says John.
“He loves attending Arsenal to watch games as he loves listening to the atmosphere. I’m hoping and praying there will be a cure so he can one day see again.”