A young Afghan boy pictured wearing a makeshift Lionel Messi jersey made out of a plastic bag has said he is excited after the Barcelona star expressed an interest in meeting him.
Murtaza Ahmadi shot to Internet fame after photographs of him dressed in the blue-and-white top with Messi’s name written on it went viral last month, prompting people to try and track him down.
“I love Messi and football. I will meet him one day,” the five-year-old told Al Jazeera on Monday.
“I want to become like him (Messi),” added Ahmadi, who lives in the Jaghori district in the Afghan province of Ghazni.
On Monday, the Afghan Football Federation (AFF) confirmed that Ahmadi will now get a chance to meet his football hero.
“We’ve been contacted by Messi’s management team and they have expressed their interest in meeting the boy,” AFF spokesman, Syed Ali Kazemi, told Al Jazeera.
“We are doing our best to coordinate their meeting. The date and the venue is still not confirmed yet, but there are chances of Ahmadi flying to Spain to meet his idol (Messi).”
Kazemi added that “the passion that Murtaza carries for football, we will do everything in our capacity to train him to be a part of our Afghanistan football team”.
The making of viral fame
Murtaza’s brother Homayoun was the one who made the improvised shirt – that perfectly fit the little boy – and scribbled Messi’s name and the No 10 in it.
“Murtaza found a plastic bag and ran towards me asking me to make a jersey out of it for him,” 15-year-old Homayoun told Al Jazeera.
“We can’t even imagine buying the original Messi jersey. We just can’t afford it so, to make my brother happy, I made a shirt out of that plastic bag for him.”
The boy’s father, Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, said that he has been overwhelmed by the response to the photographs.
“We did not expect that we would get this kind of support from everyone. People from all over the world have been calling me to help get Murtaza a jersey and a football,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Murtaza can’t hold it. He is so excited by the news of meeting Messi. We don’t know when is it going to happen, but we are humbled by the response we got.”
Mistaken for Iraqi Kurd
When the pictures first went viral, Ahmadi was mistaken for an Iraqi Kurd kid living in Dohuk.
But later his uncle Azim Ahmadi, who lives in Australia, revealed that it was his nephew in the photograph
The official Twitter fan page of Messi later tweeted pictures confirming his identity.
“I want my son to bring pride to the country and play in the international football matches one day,” Mohammed Arif Ahmadi said.
Follow Shereena Qazi on Twitter: @ShereenaQazi