Afghan boy threat­ened by crim­i­nals, Tal­iban

Young Messi fan’s life in jeop­ardy

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

KABUL — A young Afghan soc­cer fan who shot to fame af­ter he was pho­tographed in a Messi shirt made from a plas­tic bag has been forced to flee with his fam­ily to the cap­i­tal af­ter crim­i­nal gangs and the Tal­iban threat­ened to kill or kid­nap him, his mother said Fri­day.

Since be­com­ing an In­ter­net sen­sa­tion, Shafiqa Ahmedi said her now 7-year-old son, Murtaza — a fan of Ar­gen­tinian soc­cer star Lionel Messi — hasn’t been able to at­tend school and now they’re liv­ing in an un­heated room in Kabul.

She said the cold and the damp are mak­ing Murtaza sick.

“He is al­ways cold,” she said. Tem­per­a­tures in Kabul hover around 11 C dur­ing the day.

The pic­ture of Murtaza in his plas­tic Messi shirt play­ing soc­cer went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia two years ago. He met his hero in De­cem­ber last year.

But his pop­u­lar­ity has turned into a night­mare for Murtaza and his fam­ily.

“I wish Murtaza had never be­come so fa­mous,” she told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It has cre­ated a big prob­lem for us and for him. For the last two years we have not been able to send him to school. I wish none of this had ever hap­pened.”

Crim­i­nals threat­ened to kid­nap Murtaza af­ter de­mand­ing money, as­sum­ing the boy’s brush with fame some­how re­sulted in a wind­fall of money. Tal­iban in­sur­gents stopped lo­cal school buses ask­ing if any­one knew of Murtaza. They, too, had seen pic­tures of young Murtaza meet­ing Messi in the Mid­dle East­ern state of Qatar, where he re­ceived a T-shirt from his hero.

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AP

Murtaza Ah­madi, in­set, a Lionel Messi fan, shows Messi’s sig­na­ture on a shirt, at his rel­a­tive’s home in Kabul yesterday. Murtaza has been forced to flee with his fam­ily to the cap­i­tal af­ter crim­i­nal gangs and the Tal­iban threat­ened to kill or kid­nap him, his mother says.

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