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The ordeal of the Afghan boy who fulfilled the dream of meeting Lionel Messi: he lives surrounded by threats and his family asks for help

In January 2016 the image of a child with a plastic bag tied to his shoulders and with the surname of Lionel Messi written on it traveled the world. Some time later it was learned that that young man Murtaza Ahmadi, a five-year-old Afghan whose dream was to meet the soccer player from Barcelona, but that seemed impossible to achieve if you take into account the precarious conditions in which he lived with his family in a village.

In December of that year, after the news traveled the world and reached the ears of the Argentine star, the little boy was able to fulfill the wish of meeting the player in a friendly that the Catalan team played in Doha, where he was invited. by the organizers of the Qatar World Cup 2022. Before which team then commanded by Luis Enrique will start the duel against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, Murtaza entered the pitch of Thani bin Jassim Stadium from the hand of The flea and gave a tender image that moved the world.

Now, five years after the publication that toured the Facebook profiles of millions of people around the planet, Bleacher Report traveled to Afghanistan to know the reality in which the 9-year-old boy lives who, after fulfilling his dream, began to experience an ordeal.

Is that after the viralization of his image with the plastic bag, Murtaza began to suffer abuse from other children in the area: “Everyone told me, ‘You are the child who wears plastic.’ They all made me bullying, but I was happy “. His father, Arif Ahmadi |, explained that the economic situation of his family was not the best, but it was not so delicate: “Some thought ‘their financial situation is so tricky that they cannot even buy a T-shirt for their son'”, when in reality everything had arisen from An idea from his older brother, who when he saw the plastic bag with the white and blue canes, it occurred to him to write the name of Messi, pretending that it was the shirt of the Argentine national team.

Murtaza's photographs that went viral in January 2016
Murtaza’s photographs that went viral in January 2016

Some time later, two gifts arrived from the soccer player from Rosario: “When I saw the boxes I thought that maybe one of them had toys for Murtaza and the other maybe contains dollars. When we opened them there was only a ball and a T-shirt ”.

After the arrival of those present at his home, the rumor that the Ten of the Barcelona He had sent them wads of dollars, he toured the villages and the family began to feel the danger closely: “They thought we had received a lot of money from Messi. They were people who used to walk around at night near our house. The threats were not long in coming and that is why Arif decided to enlist as in a refugee system.

First, he sold his car and part of his land, and then he applied for asylum in Western Afghanistan. Along with his cry for help He attached a letter written by a Taliban group that threatened him and the rest of his family with death: “Repent of your actions with Messi.” However, this test was not taken seriously by the government, as an official explained to Bleacher Report many use bogus such threats to get help.

At the end of 2016, Murtaza received a letter from Qatar in which he and his father were invited to the friendly that would dispute the Barcelona in Doha. It was then that the little boy was able to fulfill his dream of entering the field with the Barça scorer, taking photos and giving millions of viewers an image as tender as it was unique, not wanting to leave the pitch and stay with his idol the greatest possible time.

To Messi I said, ‘I want to stay here with you, I want to play football with you. I didn’t understand what he was saying because I didn’t understand his language. I remember that I went to him again and he told me that I should go with my father ”he recalled about that moment.

Messi with Murtaza in Doha
Messi with Murtaza in Doha

But his father, Arif, expected a greater gesture from the Barcelona footballer: “We went to Qatar for Messi to do something, not for me, but for Murtaza, because he is a great fan. But unfortunately he didn’t do anything, he must have done something for him. ” His family hoped the player would manage some kind of political asylum and help them escape from Afghanistan., but it was not like that. The worst thing was that when we returned to Afghanistan everything got worse.

His neighbors did not believe that Messi had not given them money and they all believed that inside their home they hid millions. That is why the threats of kidnapping began to accumulate for little Murtaza who understood little of what was happening: “When we came back they all told me, ‘You have a lot of money from Messi’”.

For her safety, she stopped going to school and even going outside. Little by little he began to isolate himself from the world until his parents decided to send him to live with his uncle in Accept, where at least he could socialize with his cousins, although always within the walls of his house on the patio or on the terrace.

Some time ago, the Taliban attacks in Accept increased and the city became very dangerous, so now he returned to live in Jaghori with his family.

“I have no place to play, I have no friends,” said the young man sadly who a few years ago put on a plastic bag and took a photo that changed his life. Despite the dramatic situation that he and his family are experiencing, which explains that since that trip to Qatar they have not lived calmly, Murtaza does not regret having met Messi: “I love him.”


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About the author

Kim Diaz

Kim recently joined the team, and she writes for the Headline column of the website. She has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism.

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