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Even The Taliban Won’t Stand In This Boy’s Way Of Admiring Messi

Earlier this year many of us heard the heartwarming story of Murtaza Ahmadi – a 5 year old boy from Afghanistan who admires Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. When pictures of little Murtaza in his homemade Messi “jersey,” made from a blue and white striped plastic bag, went viral Messi and his team took notice. Messi autographed an actual jersey for his young fan and had it delivered to the boy in eastern Afghanistan. A touching gesture that shows the global reach of the beautiful game.

Murtaza Ahmadi in a Lionel Messi plastic bag jersey

Young Murtaza sporting his homemade Messi Argentina Jersey. Photo: @AfPak_Journo | Twitter

Unfortunately, the story did not end there. After speaking with the boy’s father, BBC News is reporting that young Murtaza Ahmadi and his family have had to flee from their home in Afghanistan and are now residing in neighboring Pakistan. Why? After Murtaza received Messi’s gift, some became suspicious…and threatening.

Members of the Taliban, who have fought to regain power in areas of Afghanistan and are still supported by different militant groups throughout the country, questioned the boy’s father. They pressured him, wondering why he was allowing Murtaza to spend time watching soccer rather than practice religion. Local criminals wanted to know if Messi included any money in addition to the signed jersey. Some even threatened to kidnap Murtaza. The Ahmadi family felt their best and safest option was to move before it was too late.

Murtaza Ahmadi in his real Lionel Messi jersey.

Messi's gift has changed Murtaza's life forever. Photo: @YourStoryCo | Twitter

Murtaza and his family are seemingly safe in their new home. But the story is a cautionary tale of the complex world we live in today. In this instance, soccer connected a 5 year old boy in Afghanistan with perhaps the most recognizable athlete on the planet – a dream made possible by social media’s ability to capture the attention of millions of fans, but also that of a group as sinister as the Taliban. Hopefully in the future humanity can allow the beautiful game to simplify our world, not complicate it, and inspire boys and girls everywhere to dream big.

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