Afghanistan’s ‘Little Messi’ forced to flee home after Taliban threats

A young Afghan boy who shot to fame for wearing a homemade Lionel Messi shirt – created out of a plastic bag – has been forced to flee his home for a second time.

Murtaza Ahmadi, aged seven, retold his tragic story in the safer surroundings of Kabul on Thursday.

The young boy began the interview by professing his love for Messi, who sent him a signed jersey and ball. They later met at a friendly match in Qatar. However, it was his association with the Barcelona star which appears to have made him a target of the Taliban.

“A man used to come to me and ask, ‘are you Murtaza – Messi?,” Murtaza recalled. “I said, ‘no I am not, my name is Mehdi’ and my friends used to tell me to escape.”

These kind of incidents prevented the youngster from leaving home and attending school.

“When the Taliban attacked Angori [district in Ghazni Province] we were displaced and we could not stay there because people would know that it is Murtaza’s home,” his mother Shafiqa said.

The family left the south-eastern Ghazni province, escaping to the capital Kabul. The Taliban launched a major offensive on government-held area in August and then a renewed assault in November.

The family previously sought refuge in northern Pakistan, but were forced to return when their money ran out, media reported.

Murtaza managed to keep his signed memorabilia and still dreams of becoming “a football star like Lionel Messi.”

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