Murtaza Ahmadi went viral last month after a photo of him wearing a plastic bag version of Lionel Messi’s football jersey surfaced on Twitter. While some controversy arose because the Twitter user who uploaded it pretended the boy was from his Iraqi hometown, Murtaza himself only became more eminent when even more pictures of him proudly donning his makeshift jersey appeared on his brother’s Facebook. It was soon revealed that the five-year-old was really from rural Afghanistan and that the plastic shirt was the only thing that stopped him from crying because his father could not get him an actual jersey.
It was hoped that his adoration for the Argentinean would grant him an actual face-to-face meeting, but he got the next best thing instead. Both Messi and UNICEF sent the boy two autographed shirts and a signed football in the mail. His father Arif Ahmadi describes his reception of these gifts as “one of the happiest moments” of his life. He’s also been wearing the shirts and kicking around the football ever since.
“I love Messi, and my shirt says Messi loves me,” Murtaza reportedly told UNICEF. Well, ain’t that the truth.
In the meantime, UNICEF has just renewed a partnership with Barca to develop a program that gives underprivileged children the chance to participate in sports. Murtaza certainly hasn’t been the sole beneficiary of their munificence, as UNICEF’s program has helped a million children in Ghana, Angola, Brazil, China, Malawi, South Africa and Swaziland.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 25, 2016
“We are united in the fight for children’s rights and the promotion of education through sport,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said. We’re glad his star player’s contributing to the cause in a meaningful way.