Rockford boy picked for U.S. cerebral palsy soccer team

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) While every soccer kid dreams of being the next Christian Pulisic, one Rockford boy will get his chance on the world stage later this week as a part of team USA.

Anthony Martinez is over his Periventricular Leukomalacia, or PVL, but it will surely be the underlying theme at this week's Dublin Friendship Cup where the 11-year-old will be a member of USA's first cerebral palsy U-14 soccer team.

"I used to be really edgy about it," said Martinez. "I would like it at one point and then I'll feel bad about it. I could care less now."

"We did not see it coming," said Anthony's mother Jaci. "We had no idea. He hit every milestone he was supposed to on time and developed great. He's a trooper. He's been doing good."

From a young age, Martinez's family saw that he was having problems with the left side of his body and when he was four, he was diagnosed with the neurological disorder. Doctors say it was caused by either a stroke or lack of oxygen during pregnancy.

Anthony's big sister Gabby says none of that has ever stopped him.

"He's very fiery," said the Auburn junior. "He just goes for it. He'll attack anything and he'll do his best no matter what. He's great."

The Conklin Elementary School fifth grader has adjusted. He says he's been picked on in the past, but it's not something he worries about anymore. Now it's all about getting adjusted with his new teammates.

"Some understood it better than others," Martinez said.

"What do we do coach? You just keep playing," said Martinez's Rockford Raptors coach Tony Benitez. "It's just another teammate of yours. It's just a lot of reinforcing that it's OK, it's OK, keep working and we are going to get there and eventually we were able to bring them as a part of the team."

If his time with the Rockford Raptors is any indication of what will happen in Ireland, Martinez should be fine. But there will still be some butterflies.

"I'm really excited," said Martinez. "I'm honored, but there are a lot of nerve-wracking feelings. I'm just nervous."