Afghan ‘Little Messi’ forced to flee

Rex Christensen
December 8, 2018

The Ahmadi family belongs to the Hazara ethnic group, of Shiite confession.

"We could not take any of our belongings, we only saved our lives", recalls Shafiqa, his face half-hidden by a scarf.

According to UK Daily Mail report citing AFP, Murtaza alongside family fled their home district of Jaghori, following several gunshots all through the night.

11 months later, after millions raised awareness of his love for the five-time Balon d'Or victor, Murtaza finally met his idol in Qatar when the Argentinian forward held the little lad in his arms in Doha, as his admirer donned the iconic Catalonia football top.

However, the youngster, who is now aged seven, was recently forced to flee his homeland in Afghanistan's southeastern Ghazni province - leaving his prized signed Messi jersey behind - according to an AFP reporter who tracked down the boy and his family.

This led to Messi himself arranging to meet up with the youngster and handing him a real Argentina shirt with his name on it. Hundreds of people - civilians, soldiers, and insurgents - were killed in the outbreak of violence.

His mother alleges they are searching for Murtaza by name.

She said: "The danger of the Taliban coming back is high, going back is not an option".

Under the Taliban regime, from 1996 to 2001, sports were rarely tolerated, and the Kabul football stadium was a well-known location for stoning and executions.

They took refuge first in a mosque in Bamiyan, before arriving in Kabul six days later.

Although Afghan security forces have repelled the Taliban offensive, the Ahmadi no longer feel safe there.

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Murtaza and his family left behind their possessions, including the signed Messi shirt he was given when the pair met, after being hunted by the Taliban.

She said: "Local strongmen were calling and saying, "You have become rich, pay the money you have received from Messi or we will take your son"".

'At night we would sometimes see unknown men, watching and checking our house, and then the calls.

While his family fears for their son's safety, Murtaza told the news agency he misses playing soccer and misses the jersey he got from Messi.

Murtaza's older brother who made the plastic jersey, insists the family is still not safe in their new base in Kabul. During the days, we wouldn't dare let him outside home to play with other children'.

Homayoon, the eldest brother who made his plastic jersey, says he continues to hide Murtaza's identity in Kabul.

'I want them back so I can play, ' he told AFP.

The family have already fled once before, to Pakistan in 2016, where they sought asylum in "any safe country". The family returned to Afghanistan when they ran out of money.

Murtaza is now one of more than 300,000 internally displaced people, 58 per cent of whom are under the age of 18, who have fled their homes since the start of the year because of the Taliban conflict, according to a recent United Nations countdown.

'I miss Messi, ' he added.

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