Afghan boy replaces plastic-bag Lionel Messi jersey with the real thing
Soccer star donates a signed jersey after a photo of the boy wearing plastic goes viral
An Afghan boy has received a signed jersey from Lionel Messi thanks to internet sleuths, who found photos of the five-year-old wearing a plastic bag with the Argentine soccer star's name on the back.
A photo of Murtaza Ahmadi wearing a blue and white striped bag as a soccer jersey shot around the web back in mid-January. The bag had "Messi" and the player's number, 10, written on the back. It was also patterned like the Argentina World Cup jersey.
The photo first became popular when a fan account for Messi, who plays for FC Barcelona, posted it on its Twitter feed, although the tweet incorrectly said that Murtaza was from Iraq, not Afghanistan.
A kid in Iraq 💔.. <a href="https://t.co/ZfOEpUCNvw">pic.twitter.com/ZfOEpUCNvw</a>—@messi10stats
As photos of the boy spread, many set out to find who he was.
Murtaza Ahmadi: "I love Messi and football. I will meet him one day. I want to become like Messi" .. <a href="https://t.co/l2tJPIXAyW">pic.twitter.com/l2tJPIXAyW</a>—@messi10stats
BBC Trending caught up with the boy's uncle, Azim, in Australia, who pointed them to Ahmadi's father Arif in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
It turned out that the boy's eldest brother, Hamayon Ahmadi, had sewn the shirt together from plastic bags. He'd also been the one to first post the photos on Facebook.
The five-year-old had asked his father for a Messi jersey after watching him on TV, but his father had told him that it was impossible. Not only couldn't he afford one, they lived too far away from a city to even find a jersey.
"He kept crying for days asking for the shirt until his brother Hamayon helped him make one from the plastic bag to make him happy. He stopped crying after wearing that plastic bag shirt," the boy's father told CNN.
Then on Feb. 25 the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund posted new photos of Ahmadi with an actual Messi jersey.
"I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me," Ahmadi said to UNICEF.
Messi, who is also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, provided multiple signed jerseys, according to the BBC, and a soccer ball.
UNICEF said that the initiative between their Afghanistan and Argentina divisions was part of a campaign to reach 43 million children trapped in similar circumstances as the five-year-old.
"The whole people in the world know me now," Ahmadi said to CNN. His father only wished Messi could have come to Afghanistan to give the gifts in person.
As for why Ahmadi might be a big Messi fan, the Argentine was named the best soccer player in the world with the FIFA Ballon d'Or award this year. This was his fifth time winning the prize – more than any other player in history.