The story of Murtaza Ahmadi, the “little Afghan Messi” touched everyone in 2016. But after the dream of meeting the soccer star, the little boy shares his present story, the nightmare of the innumerable, displaced by the conflict with the Taliban.
Little Murtaza resided with his family in the Jaghori district of the southern province of Ghazni in Afghanistan, considered the safest and most peaceful area in the last 17 years of conflict, but the calmness ended in early November when the Taliban stormed the region, forcing more than two thirds of the population to flee in search of refuge.
“I miss our house in Jaghori, I do not have a ball here and I cannot play football or go out,”
lamented the young boy, where he and his family have taken refuge for two weeks. Murtaza, his parents, and his four brothers live in a more than modest room in a building shared with a neighbor in one of the hills in the west of the capital, after having stopped for a while in the neighboring province of Bamyan.
The boy’s eyes fill with tears when he remembers that the two signed shirts and the ball that Messi gave him, who he came to know in 2016 in Qatar, were left at home.
“We had to leave them behind in Jaghori,” he explained. “We could not bring them because we left the house during the night, and Mom asked me to leave the ball and the shirts.”
Afghan security forces have expelled insurgents from the area, but the family has decided not to return to the village. And that is before the Taliban broke into the region in November, the family received continuous telephone threats because of the sudden fame of Murtaza, said his older brother, Humayoon Ahmadi, 17 years.
“After Murtaza met Messi in Qatar, the situation became complicated and we lived in fear because people around us thought that Messi had given us a lot of money,” Ahmadi lamented.
VIDEO: The image of Murtaza Ahmadi sporting a plastic Messi jersey went viral in 2016 and later that year the Afghan boy met his idol in Qatar. In November he had to flee his home as it came under Taliban attack pic.twitter.com/7s3N1BJz0v
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 6, 2018
The young man related how at times unknown people roamed the house at nightfall and relatives faced threats.
“Because of all this, we were afraid that he would be kidnapped and we practically locked up Murtaza at home and we did not send him to school for two years,” he summarized.
Until the threats became unbearable, the family took the path of exile to Pakistan in May 2016, hoping to reach the United States.
However, the request was rejected after a few months and Murtaza, his parents and brothers were forced to return to their village, where they have been displaced now because of the conflict. They are not the only ones, only this year, more than 300,000 people have moved and live in difficult conditions, relying above all on government and non-governmental organization assistance. This is the case of the family of the young follower of Messi, who depended on the income obtained in their farms and in Kabul goes ahead with the help of relatives and NGOs.
Afghan kid Murtaza Ahmadi who gained fame after being pictured wearing a blue and white striped plastic bag with Messi's name on it. Sadly now the seven-year-old is facing death threats from the Taliban as he and his family were forced to leave their house and hide in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/taBZCYAZI1
— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) December 6, 2018
Two years after coming face to face with Messi, Murtaza has not forgotten a promise made by the Argentine on his trip to Qatar.
“Messi told me ‘when you’re a little older, I’ll fix things for you”, said the boy, before regretting that he has not had contact with the player since then.
“Take me with you, I cannot play soccer here, there’s only ‘daz-dooz’ here,” he asked, imitating the sound of explosions and shots.
“Every time he hears a bomb or the sound of a gunshot, he runs to hide under my chador,” explained his mother, Shafiqa, 38.