A 5-year-old Afghan boy who became world famous earlier this year has fled his country because of safety concerns.
A photograph of Murtaza Ahmadi first appeared on the Internet in January. He was wearing a homemade soccer jersey that looked like the one worn by Lionel Messi, the Argentinian soccer star.
The boy’s brother made the shirt from a blue-and-white striped plastic bag. The bag had the name “Messi” and number 10 written on the back.
The photograph spread quickly on the Internet. Eventually, Messi himself heard about the boy and sent him a soccer ball and signed jerseys.
The story seemed to have a happy ending.
But after the news spread, the Ahmadi family started receiving threatening telephone calls and even a letter from the Taliban.
The Associated Press says the Taliban have yet to comment on the boy’s case.
Murtaza's father said that at first he was not sure who was responsible for all the phone calls. At first, he thought it might have been criminals who falsely thought the family made a lot of money from the boy’s fame.
About one month ago, the family of eight quietly fled to Pakistan. They left behind all of their belongings. They are currently living in a one-room house in the city of Quetta.
But Murtaza Ahmadi has not given up on soccer. Some days, the boy goes to a nearby field to play a game with his family.
His father adds that Murtaza still hopes that one day he will be able to meet his hero, Lionel Messi.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Words in This Story
jersey – n. a loose shirt worn by a member of a sports team as part of a uniform
soccer – n. the American name for a game known in many other countries as football
signed – adj. being in the writer’s own handwriting