A young disabled fan has become one of the stars of the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje, after having his photograph taken with an image of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jane Velkovski is a 9-year old football fan from FYR Macedonia, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair. Jane and his mother Denica purchased accessibility tickets to attend the UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Ahead of the match, Jane saw a large poster of his idol Cristiano Ronaldo and had his photograph taken with it.

The photo went viral and was shared by UEFA on their social media channels, and Jane became an internet sensation!

Speaking after the match, Jane said, "When I start walking I will be a football player, I will score goals like Ronaldo. Now I only defend".

Jane was interviewed at school by local news website Sakam Da Kazham (Сакам Да Кажам), where he introduced the interviewers to his friends and took them to the field where they plays football every day.

Speaking about Jane's disability, Denica said that she sees her son "as an employed and married man with his own family in the future".

Denica is leading a campaign in FYR Macedonia for Jane and other children with spinal muscular atrophy to enable them to receive a 'spinraza' treatment, which can help children to breathe independently, stand up and also possibly begin to walk.

Denica said, "The SMA disease is life-threatening, progressive, and affects all the muscles of the body but mostly affects the lungs. In such a situation, we had to fight ourselves with our child's disease. We have explored all world’s experiences; and we have joined international support groups. The wheelchair that Jane’s currently using is a donation from an American family".

In 2015, Jane travelled to Paris for a scoliosis correction operation - a common consequence of spinal muscular atrophy. He returns to the clinic every six months to extend the implants placed in his spine to reflect his growth.

As a keen football fan, Jane has also met with legendary players including Gianluigi Buffon, Marco Verratti and Giorgio Chiellini, and was one of the mascots when FYR Macedonia played against Spain.

Jane's experience at the UEFA Super Cup has been hugely positive and again shows football's unique power to change the lives of many disabled people. 

To read more about Jane's experiences (in Macedonian), please click here.

A version of this article is also available in Russian.

Published 17/08/2017