After Receiving a Messi Jersey, the Five-Year-Old Afghan Fan Who Won the Internet’s Heart Forced to Flee to Pakistan

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Earlier this year, we all found ourselves overjoyed by the internet’s capacity to be used for good. Murtaza Ahmadi – the five-year-old Afghan boy wearing a DIY Messi jersey made from a plastic bag – had been located, and Messi had gifted him signed shirts. All was right in the world.

Unfortunately, the sad turn of events that took place in the aftermath serves to highlight the ways in which soccer – the sport with an astonishing ability to lift us up with innocent imagination into the worlds of our favorite futbolistas – can also suck people into making irrational and devastating decisions.

“They were really happy moments when Messi sent Murtaza the gifts,” said Wahid Ahmadi, a cousin of the young boy. “Now, everything has become complicated.”

Murtaza was forced to flee to Pakistan with his parents and siblings following threats from local mafia leaders and fears of kidnapping.

“Life became a misery for us,” Ahmadi – Murtaza’s father – told AP over the telephone from Quetta, where his family is currently living as refugees. “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 my family.”

Wahid continued by stating that the family “left for Pakistan a month ago because a mafia called us with threats and we were fearful that they would kidnap the child.”

One can only hope that through tremendous hardship, Murtaza can continue to dream with open eyes and innocence.