afghan boys

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Dreams do come true!

A young Afghan boy who became an internet sensation after being photographed in a homemade replica of Lionel Messi’s famous football strip has finally come face-to-face with his idol. In January this year, pictures emerged of five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi wearing a blue-and-white striped plastic bag to emulate the colours of the Argentinian team. On the back of the bag was scrawled the legend: “Messi 10”. The pictures went viral and, after Messi’s biggest fan was identified and tracked down to Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province, efforts were made to bring Murtaza and the Barcelona star together. Now Ahmad has come face-to-face with the fifth-time Ballon d'Or winner in a heartwarming meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Barcelona were in Qatar to play a friendly against Saudi Arabian Al Ahli on Tuesday evening. Ahmadi, who was given the honour of bringing the match ball out onto the pitch before the match, seized the opportunity to steal another impromptu meeting with his hero. After placing the ball on the centre circle Ahmadi ignores the referee’s attempts to escort him for the pitch before running over to Lionel Messi on the edge of the semi circle.

Luis Suarez broke into fits of laughter as a giggling Lionel Messi tried to point Ahmadi towards the stadium tunnel. Ahmadi’s once in a lifetime experience was finally cut short when the referee picked the six-year-old up and carried him off the pitch. The child and his family now live in  Quetta, Pakistan, after fleeing their home in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. 

“I’m very happy to have met my hero. It is a dream for me,” according to a statement released by the committee overseeing organisation of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. “The image the world wanted to see,” tweeted Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organisers, who brought the pair together. “The six year old boy who dreamed of meeting his hero, Messi, finally comes true.”

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Lionel Messi talks to Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi on the pitch before the start of a friendly football match against Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli FC on December 13, 2016 in the Qatari capital Doha. Barcelona play Saudi champions Al-Ahli in a friendly in Doha, the Spanish club’s last major obligation of its four year shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways.

An Afghan Pashtun boy, forced from the troubled province of Baghlan due to threats from the Taliban, looks on as he winds up for the day after scavenging for recyclables at a garbage dump site on November 14, 2012 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Children working at the garbage site in Kabul said they can make up to 90 Afghans (USD $1.75) per day collecting cans and other recyclable materials for sale. If they were to stay and work in their home province, with limited options for employment, and join the Police or Army, the Taliban threatened they would come for them and their families, they said.