A five-year-old Afghan boy, Murtaza Ahmadi, who became an internet star after a picture of him wearing a makeshift plastic Lionel Messi jersey went viral had his dream come true as he was seen wearing the Argentine football superstar’s Barcelona jersey.
A visibly excited Murtaza Ahmadi was seen playing with members of a youth football team at the Afghan Football Federation headquarter in Kabul while wearing his hero Lionel Messi’s Bareclona jersey.
It is not yet clear how the five-year-old got the jersey and who gifted it to him.
Earlier, the Barcelona star Lionel Messi had also expressed his desire to arrange a meeting with the Afghan boy.
Jorge Messi, Lionel’s father, told AFP on Saturday that the footballer was aware of the photos that made waves on social media and “wants to do something” for his young fan.
Messi seeks to meet Afghan boy in plastic jersey
The Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) on Monday said Messi was keen to meet Murtaza as soon as possible, though no date or venue has so far been finalised.
“Messi has been in communication with the federation to set up a meeting with the young boy,” AFF spokesman Sayed Ali Kazemi told AFP.
“We are working to see whether Messi will come to Afghanistan or the five-year-old will travel to Spain or they will meet in a third country.”
There was no immediate comment from FC Barcelona. Setting up a meeting in Afghanistan, in the grip of a fierce Taliban insurgency, is fraught with security challenges.
Mystery solved: Messi’s biggest fan found in Afghanistan
The Spanish embassy in Kabul told AFP it would do whatever possible to facilitate a meeting in a European destination.
Murtaza’s father, a poor farmer in Ghazni’s Jaghori district, admitted he could not afford to buy him a replica jersey, adding that Murtaza only had a punctured ball to play with.
Photos of the boy wearing the improvised Messi jersey — made from grocery bags discarded by their neighbour — has touched a chord with football fans around 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.