Photos of Murtaza Ahmadi, a 5-year-old fan of Futbol Club Barcelona Captain Lionel Messi, who lives southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, in the war-stricken and impoverished Ghazni province, have come to the attention of the soccer star, who is reported to be planning a meeting between the two, according to the Afghanistan Football Federation.
A single photo of Murtaza was tweeted on January 16 by a Lionel Messi fan account on Twitter. At first, people thought the boy lived in Iraq, but it turned out that he was actually in Afghanistan, according to the CBC.
“When he suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night, he starts crying that he wants to go to Messi,” Arif Ahmadi, Murtaza’s father was quoted. When the boy asked for a Messi shirt, the poor Afghan farmer was forced to tell his son that it wasn’t possible, according to CNN.
“I told him that we were living in a poor village far from the city and it was impossible for me to get him the shirt.”
Murtaza was said to have cried for days over his family’s situation until his brother, 15-year-old Homayoun, found a blue- and white-striped shopping bag and turned it into a Messi jersey by scrawling the soccer hero’s name and number with a pen and tailoring the plastic to fit his brother’s tiny torso.
The attention Murtaza has received is said to have turned the little boy in a “celebrity” in his village.
“I feel very happy that he is famous now,” Murtaza’s father stated. “He is really excited that his pictures are everywhere now. He wants to become a football player in the future and go to school.”
On January 18, the Messi fan account tweeted that the FC Barcelona captain’s team had contacted them and that something was going to be arranged for Murtaza. Yesterday, the Afghanistan Soccer Federation reported that they are working out the logistics of a meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmadi.
Today, the Messi fan account tweeted that the meeting will take place at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home stadium, presumably meaning that Murtaza and at least some members of his family are being flown to Spain, with the financing of the trip likely provided by Messi or the organizations he is involved with.
On January 11, Lionel Messi was again named the best soccer player in the world when he was presented with the Ballon d’Or award at the Kongresshaus in Zurich, Switzerland, which he previously held from 2010 to 2012.
“I want to thank football in general for everything it has brought me. Both the bad and the good. Because it has made me learn and grow,” Messi was quoted at the awards ceremony.
The 27-year-old was born in Argentina and diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency when he was a child. Already a talented soccer player at the age of 13, Messi moved from South America to Barcelona after the team signed him and agreed to pay for his treatments. He began playing for FC Barcelona in 2004, when he was 17.
FC Barcelona is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the Spanish La Liga professional soccer association with a record of 16-3-2. The team next plays versus Valencia on February 3 in Barcelona. It has not yet been confirmed when Murtaza Ahmadi will visit Camp Nou, but it would seem that the February 3 match may be the earliest date possible.
In addition to soccer. FC Barcelona fields teams in ice hockey, rugby, basketball, and handball. The men’s soccer team has finished atop the Spanish La Liga in three of the past five years.
[Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images]