A five-year-old Afghan boy, who became an online sensation after wearing a shirt made from a plastic bag with Lionel Messi’s name and number scrawled on it, has received a jersey signed by the Argentine footballer.
“I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me,” Murtaza Ahmadi said after receiving the signed shirt on Thursday.
The boy realised one of his biggest dreams when he received team jerseys and an autographed football with a personal message Messi, according to post on the Facebook page of Unicef Afghanistan.
Photos of Murtaza wearing a shirt fashioned from a blue and white plastic bag, with Messi’s name and the famous number 10 scrawled on it, had gone viral in January.
BBC helped to trace the boy, known as “Messi’s biggest fan”, to Jaghori district in the eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan. He was identified after his uncle, Azim Ahmadi, an Afghan living in Australia, put BBC in touch with his brother, Arif, the young Messi fan’s father.
Arif told the media: “Murtaza became a fan of Messi by watching television. He asked me to find a Messi shirt for him with Messi’s name on it but I couldn’t find him the jersey because we live in a remote village far from the bazar.”
Ahmadi’s brother Homayoun made the plastic shirt and posted his photo on Facebook.
Arif said he was unhappy at first about the fuss made after the photograph of his son went viral on social media around the world. But he told Tolo News he was happy now.
Messi is a goodwill ambassador for Unicef, which helped get the shirt to the boy.
“Murtaza is one in 43 million children trapped in emergencies worldwide. Like so many other children, he has the same right to thrive, play, and practice sports,” Unicef Afghanistan said on its Facebook page.