A talented one-legged footballer became an overnight online celebrity in China after a video showcasing his awesome ball-handling skills went viral on social media.
In the widely shared clip, 21-year-old He Yiyi can be seen doing fancy moves, gracefully making goals while aided with a pair of crutches against able-bodied competitors during an exhibition match held on Nov. 12 in Shenzhen, China.
Yiyi, who lost his left leg to bone cancer when he was 12 years old, was dubbed by his fans as “Angel with Broken Wings”, “Ball King with One Leg” and “Magic Boy”.
According to the Times of India, the talented footballer from southern China’s Guangdong Province has already shown promise at a very young age.
As a boy, he always dreamed of becoming a football star in China, and began training more than 10 years ago at his school in the city of Shanwei. He played at the school for about two years and was eventually hand-picked to join the Shenzhen Youth Team at age 9.
He had a shot at becoming a professional footballer in France after a French scout expressed interest in his talent before he was diagnosed with the disease in 2009. His dream of becoming a famous striker was shattered in his fourth year of training with his local team.
To save his life, doctors were forced to amputate his leg after it was found that he had a rare type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. For the year he spent in and out of the hospital, Yiyi had to stop playing the game he grew so passionate about.
“I spent one year and four months in the hospital,” Yiyi told MailOnline. “That was the darkest period of my life.”
His trainer was there to eventually get him back into playing the game the moment he was ready, but things were not quite the same as before. Yet, despite the difficulty in training, he managed to endure the physical and mental pain that came with starting over with one leg.
According to Yiyi, he uses only cheap crutches that can break easily when playing to ensure other players won’t get injured out on the field. However, amateur leagues remain apprehensive in allowing him to play due to his condition.
Yiyi was able to showcase his amazing performance at the Shenzhen Cup Football Tournament after Chao Xiang Group, one of the organizers of the tournament arranged a friendship game for him to attend.
“It is difficult to arrange him to play in official games. Because we have to consider his safety and the other players’ safety,” Chen Chaoxing, the General Manager of Xiangyang Group was quoted as saying. “But I was also thinking what we should do. Could we arrange a special friendship game for him?”
His inspiring story of perseverance and dedication has touched the hearts of Chinese netizens, who encourage him to pursue his passion despite challenges. Some even suggested that he could skip amateur leagues and attempt to join China’s national team instead.
Feature image via Youtube / Blagag!