Little Murtaza, who wore Messi’s name on a plastic bag wearing it like a jersey, came to know through social media. It was also revealed how Messi had sent a gift for him, but the story after that is now open.
It was a few years ago. The picture of an Afghan child of about five years of age had become the subject of worldwide discussion. In the picture, the child was wearing a plastic bag made of football jersey. It had white-blue stripes exactly like the jersey of the Argentine football team. A name was also written on the back of the jersey, Messi. It was Messi’s number 10 jersey and the name of the child wearing it was Murtaza Ahmed. Murtaza became an overnight star after that photo went viral.
Murtaza’s father Arif Ahmadi, who lives in a village in the Khatori province of eastern Ghazni in war-torn Afghanistan, had then told that the son had asked him to bring a Messi-like tshirt. But due to being a very poor farmer, he could not get a t-shirt. When Murtaza started crying, his elder brother Hamayon made him wear a plastic jersey. When Murtaza was very happy wearing this, the elder brother took a picture of him and put it on social media, which went viral on seeing it. This picture of a small child’s passion for Messi and football touched everyone’s hearts.
The picture was also seen by Barcelona superstar footballer Messi. He sent his little fan a gift t-shirt and football. But Messi’s gifts also brought trouble with him. A yet-to-be-told tale for Murtaza and his family took a frightening turn. Messi had sent gifts for Murtaza in two big coaches through couriers and the information was made available to the people of the nearby village.
Murtaza’s father Arif said that when he saw those boxes, he thought that one would have some toys for Murtaza and the other had dollars, but there was nothing like that. One got a t-shirt and the other one was football. However, the villagers are not ready to accept this. He too felt that Messi had sent a lot of money to overcome the pain of his little fan. The people also started asking Arif whether Messi had paid enough money?
At night people started hovering around Arif’s house. All this was becoming very scary. The matter did not stop here. The rumor of gifts and money reached the Taliban. A threatening letter was sent from the Taliban kidnapping Murtaza’s family.
Now the matter was very bad and Murtaza’s life was in danger. Following the advice of some friends, Arif sold his car and some land and went to Pakistan with the family. There he sought refuge. He also added a threatening letter from the Taliban to his application, but to no avail. He did not find refuge in Pakistan and had to return to his village, Sithori.
Seven months later that year, in December 2016, Qatar World Cup officials sent an invitation to Murtaza and his family to meet Messi, who was to arrive in Qatar for a friendly match. This invitation brought new hope for Arif. Arif had heard of Portugal’s star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo that he had helped to provide shelter to a Syrian refugee child, Zaidi Abdul and his family.
Arif felt that Messi might also help to give shelter to his little fan. He arrived in Qatar with this expectation, but found no hope. Murtaza met Messi on the field. Murtaza spent some happy moments with him. After spending a few moments in the world of dazzle, Murtaza returned home. Murtaza’s father said that he had gone to Qatar with great desires. He had heard of Ronaldo helping many children. He gave millions of dollars to an orphaned child, but Messi is not like that. Not like Ronaldo at all. He did nothing for Murtaza. He should have done something for Murtaza.
Arif may have returned empty-handed from Qatar, but the story of Murtaza-Messi and money started to be woven once again in his city. People were now beginning to believe that Messi had helped Murtaza financially. Murtaza’s father was very scared now. He feared that people might kidnap Murtaza for the greed of money. He first stopped his son from going to school.
Murtaza was also not allowed to go around the house. Even if the father’s fear did not go away, he sent the son 170 miles away to his brother’s house in Kabul. Murtaza was away from people’s eyes for almost a year. He used to play with his cousins inside closed doors. He was not allowed to go in the open field. He had no friends. However, Murtaza’s life in Kabul was also threatened when the Taliban attacked there. Now for Murtaza, a safer place than Kabul was his own village, Sambhori. Father brought him back home.
Arif explains, ‘Murtaza was a very naughty and mischievous child before he went to Qatar. He would talk to everyone, but he changed a lot after returning from Qatar. Now he has calmed down. Now he does not like to talk much. The situation that arose with Mortaza would be seen by other countries as an opportunity, but for us it was reversed. The peace of our lives was lost. The joy of home was lost somewhere. We have not lived a life of comfort in the last few years.
Murtaza has now returned home. He is 9 years old. Even though his hopes were not fulfilled, he still loves Messi very much.