An Afghan child that became an internet sensation for wearing a homemade shirt of Lionel Messi constructed out of a plastic bag is to meet his football hero. The Argentine striker was said to be moved by online photos of five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi playing in a makeshift blue and white striped jersey with Messi's name and number 10 written in marker pen.
After the images went viral the Barcelona star's father, Jorge Messi, said his son wanted "to do something" for the young fan, whose family, from the eastern Afghan province of Ghazni, cannot afford to buy a proper shirt.
Thanks to the internet, the boy has now a chance to get one delivered in person by his idol. The Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) has been in contact with the footballer, who expressed the desire to meet Murtaza as soon as possible.
"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."
The poignant image of Murtaza started circulating online earlier this month, leading to an outpouring of interest in the child. His family, living in a deprived farming district of Afghanistan, was traced down after an internet campaign to gift the boy a real football shirt. "I love Messi, he plays well," Murtaza told an AFP reporter, adding that there was no playground near his home and the only ball he had was punctured. "I want to be like Messi, when I grow up."