Afghanistan’s ‘little Messi’ longs to meet Barcelona star

KABUL: Kicking a bright yellow football on a gravel-covered Kabul hilltop, an Afghan boy whose pictures in a plastic Lionel Messi jersey went viral evinced excitement Monday at the prospect of meeting the Barcelona star.

Five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi shot to global fame after his brother posted pictures of him dressed in the blue-and-white-striped plastic shirt with Messi’s name scrawled in marker pen on Facebook in mid-January. Murtaza idolises the Argentine soccer star but a jersey of his favourite player is beyond the means of his poor family in the insurgency-hit province of Ghazni near Kabul.

The Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) on Monday said Messi was in contact with them to arrange a meeting with Murtaza as soon as possible, though no date or venue has so far been finalised.

“I want to meet Messi, spend time with him, I love the way he plays football,” the boy told AFP during a visit to Kabul on Monday with his family.

“I love him very, very much,” he said, his cheeks flushed with excitement. AFF said it was working to see whether Messi could visit Afghanistan or the five-year-old could travel to Spain or meet his idol in a third country.