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Threats from Taliban forces Afghanistan’s little Messi to flee

The family of five year old Afghan boy who received autographed jersey from his hero Lionel Messi was forced to leave Afghanistan and settle in Pakistan. But the threat isn’t over as yet.
Junior Messi

The family of a 5-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi, the Afghan boy who became an internet sensation after his photograph wearing an Argentina football team jersey made from plastic grocery bag went viral, has said they  have moved to Pakistan. The family is now settled in Quetta after receiving constant threats from Taliban.

Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, father of Murtaza who received an autographed shirt from Lionel Messi after his photo started trending in social media, said their life became miserable in Afghanistan.  The family did not want to leave Ahghanistan, but the threats were just getting more and more serious. “I am afraid that my son would be kidnapped after becoming an internet sensation,” said Arif.

The family first travelled to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, but Arif said said they could not stay there long, because of high cost of living.

“I sold all my belongings and brought my family out of Afghanistan to save my son’s life as well as the lives of the rest of the family.”

Arif said he received over two dozen threatening calls which forced him to leave his homeland.

He recalled that during one such threatening call “the caller had demanded that he should stop his child from playing soccer and get him some religious education”.

“I did not inform the Afghan government about threats,” he argued, saying that the law and order situation did not allow him to rely on the Afghan security agencies.

He claimed that he is living on rent in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province. But he is still not feeling safe and has submitted an application with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to seek asylum in some other country.

Earlier this year, the Afghan soccer federation had promised to arrange a meeting between Mutraza and his idol Messi, a Unicef goodwill ambassador.

There were reports that either Messi would come to Afghanistan to visit his little fan or that some other arrangement would be made, such as sending the boy to Barcelona, where Messi plays, or arranging a meeting in a third country. But none of the options worked out.

During their five-year reign in Afghan between 1996 and 2001, Taliban banned some sports calling it as un-Islamic, though men’s football was not banned in the country.

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