Football mad Ali Turganbekov, an 11-year-old born with no legs has won hearts after he traveled from his native Kazakhstan to play with football legend Andriy Shevchenko and the Ukrainian national team during a training session.
Ali was greeted at the session by Shevchenko, one of the all-time great footballers produced by Ukraine and who is now national team boss, and the two practiced their ball skills with a game of keepy-uppy.
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On his Instagram account, Ali claimed he was “overwhelmed with emotion” by the meeting with Shevchenko, who scored 175 goals for AC Milan during a seven-year career at the San Siro, where he won the UEFA Champions League in 2003 and in 2004 was awarded the Ballon d’Or.
“My latest dream came true with Ballon d’Or winner and Champions League winner with AC Milan Andriy Shevchenko. It’s just super! Overwhelmed with emotion,” the post reads.
“Thank you so much for fulfilling this dream for the moments of joy and happiness, he had a game with one of his favorite players.”
Those emotions were reciprocated by manager Shevchenko, who paid tribute to the guest of honor and their “incredible meeting”.
“The first day of training began with an incredible meeting with Ali. A boy who has been born without legs overcame 4,000 kilometers from Almaty to play football with us,” Shevchenko, 40, tweeted with a video of the meeting.
Also on hand for a game was Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, who treated Ali to a passing session, after ruffling the youngster’s hair and planting a kiss on the top of his head in a touching gesture.
“You gave me the most valuable moments of the happiness and joy, the brightest most unforgettable impressions,” Ali wrote said in thanks to the reigning Premier League champion.
“Thanks for your attentions. I am unbelievably happy! We played some fantastic football, you have great technique, like I want,” he added.
The trip to meet ‘Sheva’ was aided by Kazakhstan Premier League side FC Kairat, the former team of Arsenal and Russia player Andrey Arshavin, and based in Almaty, with whom the lad has also taken part in training.
Ali, who describes himself as a “unique optimist” on his Instagram page and has his own YouTube account, gets around his disability by playing in goal, subsequently becoming adept at using his hands and also being a skilled header of the ball, as demonstrated when he met Ukraine’s star players.
The entire experience was a hit for Ali, who posted the moment football icon ‘Sheva’ walked onto the pitch, with a caption crediting the way the coach and his team received him as making him realize the meaning of the “human element” of life.
“Friends, it’s an unbelievable feeling when such superstars treat me like we’ve been friends for ages! As my parents say, the most important this is the human element, now I understand what it is,” an ecstatic Ali wrote.
Ukraine are currently undergoing preparations to begin their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers away to Portugal on Friday and Luxembourg on Monday in their Group B games for next summer’s tournament which will be held across the continent.