Murtaza Ahmadi has stolen the hearts of millions after wearing a version of Argentine football star Lionel Messi’s jersey, made from a blue and white striped plastic bag.
Five year old Murtaza turned into a social network sensation as fans became enraptured with his ingenious way of showing his love for Messi. Little Murtaza is from a poor family living in an insecure province of Afghanistan, Ghazni to the southwest of the nation’s capital Kabul.
He is a big fan of the football superstar and showed his love for star player Messi, by making a replica of the player’s jersey out of plastic bags with blue stripes and adding the Messi name and number 10 on the back.
The little fan didn’t even have a ball to play with. Instead, he borrowed a ball from his neighbors, obsessively following Messi whom he had only seen once on TV last year.
Murtaza made the plastic jersey of Messi after his father told him there was no Messi jersey in their remote village of Sang Tasha.
The story went viral on social media when his photo was published under the description of being a young Iraqi child. Later, his uncle Azim Ahmadi living in Australia, made it clear that it was actually a picture of his nephew.
Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) on Monday confirmed that Messi had informed them of his intention to meet his little Afghan fan in Camp Nou, Spain. However, a date for this is not yet confirmed.
The Spanish Embassy in Kabul has also said that it would do whatever possible to facilitate a meeting in a European destination.
Murtaza’s father, Mohammad Arif Ahmadi said that he’s been overwhelmed by the response to the picture and that he could not wait to see his son’s dream of meeting Messi turn to reality.
Sport was rarely played during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In Kabul the main football stadium was once a notorious venue for executions, stoning, mutilations, lashing and other strict punishments.A lot has changed since the collapse of the Taliban regime in the sport field, and a considerable number of females who were deprived of the most fundamental rights during the Taliban regime, now participate in a range of different sports.
In the last decade, sports including football and cricket have grown into national sports, with these particular codes becoming the two most popular among Afghans, growing to have a fanbase of several million.
Afghan athletes have had many achievements in the past few years. In 2013, the Afghan national football team became champion in the South Asia football championship, which is rare in the country’s football history.
Messi has met with children in special circumstances in the past. In 2011, he met and kicked around a ball with a 10-year old boy who had both legs amputated because of Laurin Sandrow syndrome. He did the same a year later with a Brazilian boy who was born without feet.