Afghan boy who met football star Messi on run after Taliban threats
A YOUNG Afghan football fan who shot to fame after he was pictured in a Lionel Messi shirt made from a plastic bag has been forced to flee with his family due to threats from criminal gangs, his mother has said.
Since becoming an internet sensation, Shafiqa Ahmadi said her now seven-year-old son Murtaza, a huge fan of Argentinian football star Messi, has not been able to attend school and they are now living in an unheated room in Kabul.
She said the cold and the damp is making Murtaza sick. “He is always cold,” she added. Temperatures in Kabul hover around 11C during the day at this time of year.
The picture of Murtaza in his plastic shirt while playing football went viral on social media two years ago and he met his hero last December.
But his popularity has turned into a nightmare for him and his family.
“I wish Murtaza had never become so famous,” she said.
“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 cash.
Taliban insurgents stopped local school buses — asking if anyone knew of Murtaza.
They had seen the pictures of Murtaza meeting Messi in Qatar, where he received a T-shirt from his hero.
Last November, when Taliban fighters launched a series of attacks in their home district of Joguri in the Ghazni province, the family fled to the relative safety of Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan.
But the threats continued and the move to the Afghan capital three weeks ago has been painful.
M ur taza is the youngest of five children.
His family is paying the equivalent of about 90 dollars a month for a room in Kabul.
Murtaza’s uncle Asif Ahmadi said that the family received at least 10 letters and several phone calls from criminal gangs threatening to kill Murtaza or kidnap him if they did not give them money.
Ordeal: Murtaza Ahmadi (7) with a Barcelona shirt signed by his footballing hero Lionel Messi