The family of a five-year-old Afghan boy who received autographed shirts from his football hero, Lionel Messi, has been forced to leave Afghanistan after constant telephone threats, the boy’s father said.
Mohammad Arif Ahmadi – whose son made headlines when he was photographed wearing an Argentina shirt made out of a plastic bag – said the family had moved to neighbouring Pakistan and settled in the city of Quetta in the hope of a better life.
“Life became a misery for us,” said Ahmadi. He said the family did not want to leave Afghanistan, but the threats were getting more and more serious.
Ahmadi said he feared that his son, Murtaza Ahmadi, would be kidnapped after becoming an online sensation when pictures of him wearing the homemade Messi shirt – complete with No 10 on the back – went viral.
The family first travelled to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, but could not settle there because of the high cost of living. They later moved to Quetta.
“I sold all my belongings and brought my family out of Afghanistan to save my son’s life as well as the lives of the rest of the family,” the father said.
The Afghan soccer federation had promised to arrange a meeting between Messi, a Unicef goodwill ambassador, and Murtaza. There were reports that either Messi would visit the boy in Afghanistan or Murtaza could be sent to Spain, where Messi plays with Barcelona, or they could meet in a third country.
But none of the options worked out, Ahmadi said.
“Still, Murtaza hopes that one day he would be able to meet his hero, Messi,” the father added.
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