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Young Afghan Messi Fan Becomes Internet Celebrity

  • Zlatica Hoke

Murtaza Ahmadi's improvised shirt is made from a plastic bag and has Lionel Messi's name scrawled on it with a marker pen.

His brother posted a photo of Murtaza wearing it on Facebook last month. The photo went viral and the boy became an Internet sensation, attracting reporters to his farm in a remote rural area of Afghanistan.

"I wear this plastic bag shirt for Messi. I would like to meet him. I love him so much," little Murtaza says.

Lionel Messi is a professional footballer who plays for the Spanish team Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Last month, he was awarded a fifth FIFA Ballon d'Or that goes to the world's best male player.

Murtaza plays soccer near his house and does not have a proper field, football jersey or sports shoes. But he dreams of becoming a famous player like Messi, his father says.

"We want to go to Spain so that Murtaza would be able to meet his idol Messi face to face, since he is a huge fan of him. Even when he wakes up he says 'I love Messi,' " Mohammad Arif Ahmadi says.

Murtaza's wish may yet be fulfilled. His new celebrity status has prompted Afghan football officials to contact's Messi's charitable organization to see if a meeting can be arranged.

Official sport was rarely played under the Taliban Islamist rule, and the football stadium in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, was used for executions, stonings and mutilations.

Although it is now free from the Taliban, Afghanistan is still riddled with violence.