The younger Lionel Messi fan who touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands when he was pictured sporting a makeshift soccer jersey together with his favourite participant’s identify and quantity on it was pressured to flee together with his household from their residence in Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s offensive within the area.

Murtaza Ahmadi, 7, met his idol in 2016 after the photograph of him within the Messi jersey, made out of blue and white striped plastic, went viral. Murtaza obtained to satisfy Messi — the Argentine worldwide participant and FC Barcelona star — and even stood on the sector with him when Messi’s membership Barcelona performed a pleasant match in Qatar.

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Two years later, Murtaza’s household was pressured to flee from their residence in southeastern Ghazni province due to intense preventing from a Taliban onslaught. The province had beforehand been deemed secure, in keeping with Agence France-Presse. The household is now one in every of many dwelling in Kabul and likewise fearing for his or her son’s security.

“We could not take any of our belongings, we left solely with our lives,” Murtaza’s mom Shafiqa informed AFP.

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The household are members of a Shiite ethnic group focused by the Taliban.

“The hazard of the Taliban coming again is excessive. Going again isn’t an possibility,” Murtaza’s mom stated.

The strain has solely elevated since Murtaza’s photographs went viral. In 2016, the household was pressured to maneuver to neighboring Pakistan for a short while over threats from the Taliban. The household returned to Afghanistan once they ran out of cash.

Shafiqa detailed the continuing threats to AFP.

“Native strongmen had been calling and saying, ‘You might have turn into wealthy, pay the cash you’ve obtained from Messi or we’ll take your son,’” she stated. “At night time we’d generally see unknown males, watching and checking our home, after which the calls. Through the days, we would not dare let him exterior residence to play with different kids.”

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Whereas his household fears for his or her son’s security, Murtaza informed the information company he misses enjoying soccer and misses the jersey he obtained from Messi.

“I miss Messi,” he stated. “After I meet him, I’ll say, ‘Salaam’ and ‘How are you?’ Then he’ll reply saying thanks and be secure, and I’ll go together with him to the pitch the place he’ll play and I’ll watch him.”

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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