A young boy from Afghanistan who was pictured wearing a football shirt made from a plastic bag penned with the name "Messi" has now been given the real thing.
Footballer Lionel Messi sent the signed shirt to five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi on Thursday. The little boy said: “I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me.”
It comes after a heart-warming image of Murtaza wearing a homemade shirt, fashioned out of a blue and white striped carrier bag to resemble the jersey worn by his idol, emerged earlier this year. It went viral on social media and was seen by the Argentinian footballer himself.
Mr Messi, who plays for Barcelona and the Argentina national team, decided he wanted to give his young fan a real shirt, which sparked a worldwide search for the boy.
Although it was initially thought he was an Iraqi Kurd, the claim turned out to be false. After more searching, the boy in the photo was tracked down to Jaghori District in the eastern province of Ghazni in Afghanistan. Mr Messi, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef, asked the charity's branch in Afghanistan to confirm the identity of Murtaza.
Murtaza's father, Arif Ahmadi, told the BBC previously: “This little kid really loves Messi and football.
“It is not possible for us to buy [a jersey] for him. Because I am a simple farmer. So the kids decided to use the plastic.”
A football and two shirts were given to Murtaza on Thursday at the Unicef offices in Afghanistan. Both were signed by the footballer with the words "con mucho cariño, Leo”, which translates to "with much love, Leo”.
Denise Shepherd-Johnson, chief of communication at Unicef Afghanistan said: "[The charity] believes in the child's right to play and the transforming power of sport in children's lives."
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