Afghan boy nets perfect 10 after 'bagging' Messi

Five-year-old Murtaza has become an Internet star after pictures of him wearing an Argentina football jersey improvised from a plastic bag - with his idol Messi's name scrawled on it - went viral. It is said that the footballer wants to find his youn
Five-year-old Murtaza has become an Internet star after pictures of him wearing an Argentina football jersey improvised from a plastic bag - with his idol Messi's name scrawled on it - went viral. It is said that the footballer wants to find his young fan and give him a proper jersey.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAGHORI (Afghanistan) • A five- year-old Afghan boy has become an Internet star after pictures went viral of him wearing an Argentina football shirt made out of a plastic bag, complete with his hero Lionel Messi's name.

Murtaza Ahmadi has never met his idol and lives in a Taleban-controlled area of Afghanistan, but footage and photos of him wearing the improvised shirt, with Messi's named scrawled in marker pen, went round the world.

Murtaza's elder brother Homayoun, 15, made the shirt and first posted the photos of Murtaza wearing it on Facebook two weeks ago.

After creating waves on social media, there were claims that Argentina and Barcelona star Messi wanted to find his young fan and give him a proper jersey.

Murtaza, whose father admitted he could not afford to buy him the real thing, said he had only a punctured ball to play with in his village in Ghazni province.

But the little boy told Agence France-Presse he idolised Messi.

"I love Messi. He plays well. The shirt was made by my brother and I like it very much.

"We do not have a football playground near our house, and the only ball I have is punctured."

But he added: "I want to be like Messi, when I grow up."

Internet users had quickly tried to identify the boy shown in the pictures and it was initially claimed that he was an Iraqi Kurd before Murtaza's uncle, Mr Azim Ahamdi, who lives in Australia, posted pictures of his nephew and said he was the unwitting star of the story.

Murtaza's family, who live in a remote rural area, only learnt about the boy's newfound fame from relatives when his father visited the Afghan capital Kabul.

The father, Mr Mohammad Arif Ahamdi, said he had high hopes for his son.

"He asked me to buy him a Messi jersey but I am a farmer and could not afford it," said Mr Mohammad, a father of six, adding that his son wants to meet Messi in person one day.

He also said: "I want my son to become a good football player in the future and become the Messi of Afghanistan."

Football and cricket are the two most popular sports in war-torn Afghanistan but sport was rarely played under Taleban rule, and the football stadium in Kabul was a notorious venue for executions, stonings and mutilations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Afghan boy nets perfect 10 after 'bagging' Messi'. Print Edition | Subscribe