14 year old boy told he 'would never walk again' signs for Arsenal's academy
Joe Trent's story is a heartwarming tale of overcoming adversity that will delight all football supporters
TWO-FOOTED CHALLENGE: 'Miracle kid' Joe Trent signs on the dotted line. (Forever Gooners/Arsenal FC)
It's not often that a 14 year old footballer joining a Premier League club's academy is newsworthy, but given he was told by doctors he would never walk again in 2016, Joe Trent's story is somewhat different.
It was a tackle that should never have been made. Bootross Florida, an adult player for non-league Streatham Rovers, flew into a wild two-footed lunge on then 8 year-old Joe Trent during a charity football match at his primary school. Joe was wearing shin pads - but even so, both of his legs were broken in the sickening collision.
Doctors who operated on him, not to mention Joe's parents, were immediately worried that he would never walk again, let alone play football, given the extent of the injuries he suffered. But Joe was determined to prove the doctors wrong. After months of gruelling rehabilitation, he not only managed to walk again - he began to play football again too.
And his talents attracted the attention of Arsenal Football Club, who this week signed him to their academy. It is a remarkable turnaround for a young man who was once told that his football career was over before it had even really started.
Damien Carnell, an under 14s coach at the Premier League club's London Colney training complex in Hertfordshire, describes Joe as "a technically skilled, spatially aware, clever, tenacious attacking player with enormous potential." Meanwhile Arsenal fansite Forever Gooners suggests he "could even be a generational talent... a miraculous one at that."
Joe is now hoping to use his story to inspire other young people who might be facing adversity in their lives. He is living proof that anything is possible if you never give up on your dreams.
"I want people to know that no matter what life throws at you, you can overcome it," he said in an interview with BBC London. "You just have to keep believing in yourself."
Joe's mother, Lisa, said that she was "incredibly proud" of her son. "He's an inspiration to us all," she said. "When it happened the doctors said his legs were mangled beyond belief, and that he looked like there had been a nail bomb explosion in an abattoir. But he's shown that no matter how hard life gets, you can always come back from it."
The horrific tackle, committed in a charitable match where two Streatham Rovers players played against over one hundred children in the playground of nearby Eardley Primary School, occurred when Joe was just eight years old. The player who committed the challenge, Bootross Florida, was given a yellow card by the referee but no further action was taken.
At the time, Joe's parents said they were "disgusted" by the tackle and called for Florida to be banned from football for life. But their son has now forgiven Florida, and even reached out to him on social media to wish him well for the future.
"I don't hold any grudges," Joe said. "He made a mistake and I'm sure he's sorry for it. I just want to focus on my own career now and achieve as much as I can."
The Trent family eventually had to move to suburban North London due to threats from Streatham's so-called 'Ultras' (hardline supporters) who claimed they were harming the club's capacity to do "good work in the community" by pursuing a compensation claim.
Michael, Joe's father, says of his son, "At a time when the world can seem full of negativity, he is a shining example of what is possible if you never give up on yourself. Joe's story is an incredible one of resilience and hope."
In 2016 Streatham Rovers issued a statement blaming the wet conditions for the tackle, suggesting it was all the headmaster's fault for allowing the game to go ahead. The club has not responded to requests for comment on this story.
When we tried to contact Bootross Florida for comment, a man picked up the telephone and put on what Bazake believes to be a racist fake Chinese accent and claimed to be working in a takeaway in Norbury called 'Paradise Noodle Garden'. We checked and no such establishment exists.
Florida's manager at Streatham, former Premier League player Taff Goose, has in the past spoken to the South London Press approvingly about the player's "turbomotivated commitment" and refusal to "shy away from 50/50 challenges". He has not responded to requests for comment on this story.