The Afghan boy who went viral for Messi's plastic shirt is in danger from the Taliban

In 2016, Murtaza Ahmadi, a six-year-old Afghan boy, went viral on the internet for being in a photograph in which he proudly posed with a Messi shirt made from a plastic bag. The image went around the world until it reached the eyes of Unicef, who fulfilled his dream of having the shirt of his favorite player. Months later, the little boy traveled to Qatar to meet the Argentine footballer in a match with Barcelona.

Five years have passed since that event and, currently, Murtaza lives in constant fear of the conquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban movement.

A few days ago, Murtaza's call to the whole world began to circulate on social networks where he asked all the footballers, especially Lionel Messi, to save him from the situation where he is living with his family. After his encounter with "La Pulga," the little boy went through many unfortunate moments, from extremist threats to the fear of being kidnapped, but nothing stopped him.

I want to travel to a safe place from Afghanistan. Please save me from this situation.

—Murtaza Ahmadi

Murtaza and his family have lived in constant displacement due to the high levels of violence in their region. In 2016, their situation was already unsustainable, so they had to escape to Pakistan, where they hoped to request political asylum from the United States, but the American country denied them this diplomatic treatment, so they had to return to Afghanistan.

But the calm did not come for Murtaza and his family, as they toured various Afghan regions until they settled in the Jaghori district, in the Ghazni province, which was considered the safest area in the country. However, the rapid advance of the Taliban forced his family to flee. The early flight forced the boy to leave behind the shirts that Messi gave him and his inseparable soccer ball.

The great dream of being a footballer seemed diffuse for Murtaza, as the constant movement took him away from the peace and tranquility that any child of his age should have by right. But everything got worse when on August 15, 2021, after 20 years of occupation, US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in a swift, loosely organized manner that left the door open for an imminent takeover by the Taliban.

This has become a nightmare for all Afghans, including Murtaza, who belongs to the minority Shiite Hazara, a group targeted mainly by the jihadist group Islamic State for not sharing the same ideology. Now, without the protection of someone to intervene, everyone fears for their safety.

For his part, Murtaza continues his passion for football hidden in his home, fearing that at any moment, the Taliban will knock on his door and harm him and his family. The little boy has nightmares on the nights the Islamist group enters his home. In fact, every time there is a knock on the door, Murtaza runs to hide or take refuge with his mother or sister.

Murtaza hopes to find a way for someone to help his family escape Afghanistan to wherever he can play soccer in peace. In addition, he does not forget that promise that Messi made him five years ago: "When you are a little older, I will fix things for you."

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