Lionel Messi meets young Afghan fan who became an Internet sensation

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Lionel Messi
Britain Football Soccer - Celtic v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C - Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland - 23/11/16 Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their first goal. Reuters/Russell Cheyne

Lionel Messi has met the Afghan child who became an internet sensation. Murtaza Ahmadi, a five-year-old Afghan boy, has touched the hearts of millions. His photos went viral as he was seen playing soccer while wearing an improvised Lionel Messi jersey made from a plastic bag. A few weeks later, Messi sent signed Barcelona and Argentina jerseys to Murtaza.

A year later, Murtaza Ahmadi has finally met his idol. Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the youngster had the chance to meet the Barcelona star in Qatar, where the Catalan sides are playing a friendly against Al-Ahli on Tuesday.

In a meeting arranged by the organising committee of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Messi held hands with Murtaza at the team hotel before picking up the boy and posing for photographs. "I'm very happy to have met my hero," Murtaza told the SC's official website. "It is a dream for me. I can't wait to see Messi at the game, it will be the first time for me in the stadium."

The meeting between Messi and Murtaza was facilitated by the SC after they became inspired by the youngster's story. "Murtaza's dream was to meet his hero. It's about a kid and his dream. That pretty much sums up the power of football. We were struck by his story from the beginning, and are delighted that we made the meeting happen. The story is symbolic of our belief that football can change lives for the better, and inspire youngsters from across our region and beyond,” a SC spokesman said.

Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, Murtaza's father, has explained that the family has been forced to flee Afghanistan for Quetta, Pakistan. They were in search for a better life. There were also threats and fears that Murtaza would be kidnapped because of his sudden notoriety. "Life became a misery for us," Ahmadi said in a telephone call with the Associated Press. He added that the family did not want to leave Afghanistan, but the threats were growing more serious.

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