The Afghan boy who pulled at our heartstrings wearing a bin bag bearing Lionel Messi’s famous number in a picture that went viral has now received the ultimate gift from his footballing idol.
Having become an online sensation last month for wearing an impoverished version of the Argentina star’s jersey, the five-year-old boy has received the real thing, signed by the player himself.
In a tale that shows the power of social media, Murtaza Ahmadi was all smiles as he proudly wore his new shirt delivered by Messi’s management team to his family in the Jaghori District, in the eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
‘I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me,’ said a beaming Murtaza on Thursday. Messi has been crowned the Ballon d’or winner on five separate occasions, but it was little Murtaza who woke up feeling top of the world as he eagerly sported the latest Argentina home shirt in preparation for a kick-about.
It is a truly heart-warming story, which came into public awareness after the boy’s elder brother Homayoun, 15, made him the plastic shirt with Messi’s named scrawled in marker pen and posted photos of Murtaza wearing it on Facebook.
Messi’s biggest fan will no doubt be aware of the maestro’s two goals in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 clash with Arsenal on Tuesday night, and Murtaza celebrated his achievement in the best possible fashion.
Earlier this month, the Afghan Football Federation said that it was planning to set up a meeting between 28-year-old Messi and the youngster.
The federation’s spokesman, Sayed Ali Kazemi said that officials hope Messi can come to Afghanistan to visit the boy, but otherwise they will arrange to send him to Spain, or arrange a meeting in a third country.
According to Arif Ahmadi, Murtaza’s father, the love affair started when Murtaza watched Messi playing on television in his family home, which only has solar power.
It tugged on the heart strings of football fans around the world, prompting the social media hunt that eventually identified Murtaza as the little boy with the ‘saddest football shirt in the world’.
Sport was rarely played under Taliban rule, and the football stadium in Kabul was a notorious venue for executions, stonings and mutilations.
Football and cricket are the two most popular sports in the war-ravaged country