Mahdy Mehraeen/UNICEF Afghanistan(GHAZNI, Afghanistan) — Meet Murtaza Ahmadi, a 5-year-old boy from Ghazni, Afghnistan, who just may be Argentine soccer player Leo Messi’s biggest fan.
Murtaza stole the hearts of millions on social media this past January, when photos of him wearing a blue and white plastic bag with “Messi” and “10” written in marker went viral.
Now, the 5-year-old’s dreams have come true.
UNICEF Afghanistan surprised Murtaza with two new signed Messi soccer jerseys and a soccer ball from the Argentine National and FC Barcelona teams, UNICEF told ABC News in a statement Thursday. Messi plays for both teams.
“As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Leo Messi believes in the child’s right to play and the transforming power of sport in children’s lives,” UNICEF said. “All the items were signed by Messi himself. Both jerseys carried the message, ‘Con mucho cariño, Leo.'(Translation: “With much love, Leo”). The football was signed ‘Leo.'”
Murtaza was “very happy” and is now asking his family to “only call him Messi,” according to his 15-year-old brother Hamayon Ahmadi.
Hamayon told ABC News Thursday he was the one who took the viral photos of his little brother in the plastic bag Messi jersey.
He explained that his little brother was “crazy” about Messi at the time and kept asking his father for a Messi jersey.
“My father did not have enough money to buy it,” Hamayon said, adding that his father didn’t make much as a farmer. “So one day, I just made a jersey from a plastic bag.
Hamayon said soccer is just one of the few ways he and his brother “try and stay happy” despite “constant war and violence” in their village.
“Everyday someone is killed by the brutal Taliban,” he said. “This is our life, always war and violence.”
Hamayon said no one in his family has been hurt, but many of his friends have been killed by the Taliban.
He added that he hopes his little brother’s story will help encourage peace in the country.
“I love my homeland,” he said. “But how long do we have to tolerate the violence? A peaceful life should be our right.”
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