Afghan boy, 5, forced to flee over threats after receiving Lionel Messi shirts

A young Afghan fan of Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi has been sent to live with relatives in Pakistan, his family fearing he could be kidnapped after becoming an internet sensation.
Murtaza Ahmadi wears a shirt signed by Barcelona star Lionel Messi, as he plays football in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Feb 26, 2016.
Murtaza Ahmadi wears a shirt signed by Barcelona star Lionel Messi, as he plays football in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Feb 26, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL - The family of a five-year-old Afghan boy who grabbed the headlines by wearing a homemade Lionel Messi shirt have been forced to flee Afghanistan amid constant threats, his father told the BBC on Tuesday (May 3).

Murtaza Ahmadi's father said they had received threats of kidnap, including from a gangster demanding money, after the boy received two signed jerseys and a football from the Argentine star.

"A few days ago I got a call from a local gangster. He thought that since my son had received these T-shirts from Messi that maybe he also got money and asked for his share," Arif Ahmadi told the BBC.

 

Messi sent the gifts to the boy after the little football fan shot to fame in his shirt fashioned from a stripy blue plastic bag.

Now the family has moved to neighbouring Pakistan and settled in the city of Quetta, hoping for a better life. They briefly stayed in the capital Islamabad but found it too expensive, according to the BBC.

"Messi, you know how much I like you. Now I want you to invite me so I can come and meet you," the boy told the BBC.

Earlier this year, the Afghan soccer federation had promised to arrange a meeting between Messi, an ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund, and Murtaza, whether in Afghanistan, Spain or a third country.

But Murtaza's father said none of the options had worked out so far.