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World

Afghanistan's 'Little Messi' flees home after Taliban threats, says family

December 7, 2018 4:19 am
Murtaza Ahmadi with a signed Messi shirt, which was sent to him after being photographed in a homemade version [Source: AFP/UNICEF]

A young Afghan boy who was made famous online for his devotion to footballer Lionel Messi has been forced to flee his home for the second time.

Murtaza Ahmadi, now aged seven, went viral in 2016 after being photographed wearing a homemade Messi shirt, fashioned out of a plastic bag.

He later met his hero in Qatar.

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His family say they have now abandoned their home in Afghanistan, after receiving threats from the Taliban.

They were living in the south-eastern Ghazni province – which militants have been targeting – and have escaped to the capital, Kabul.

They previously sought short-term refuge in Pakistan in 2016, but returned when they ran out of money, according to AFP news agency.

Murtaza was five years old when he wore a plastic-bag shirt in the white-and-blue colours of the Argentine national team, which Messi captains. It had the player’s number 10 drawn on the front with a marker pen.

After a photo was shared widely on social networks, people called for him to be found so Messi could respond.

When the boy’s name was released, the player sent him a package – including a signed shirt – via the children’s charity Unicef, which he works for as an ambassador.

Murtaza was later invited to meet Messi when the Barcelona star played a friendly in Doha in late 2016. The young fan walked on to the pitch with his idol.

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