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Messi boy flees Afghan threats

Do Not UseDo Not Use 3/05/2016
Murtaza (second from right) with family members in Quetta: Murtaza (second from right) says he wants to meet Messi © BBC Murtaza (second from right) says he wants to meet Messi

A five-year-old Afghan boy whose image went viral after he was photographed wearing a homemade Lionel Messi shirt has fled with his family to Pakistan.

Murtaza Ahmadi's father said they had received threats of kidnap, including from a gangster demanding money.

After the boy shot to fame in his shirt fashioned from a stripy blue plastic bag, the Argentine star gave him two signed jerseys and a football.

"I love Messi. He's the king," Murtaza, who hopes to meet him, told the BBC.

Murtaza's father says they left their home province of Ghazni because the situation was "very risky" for him.

"A few days ago I got a call from a local gangster. He thought that since my son had received these T-shirts from Messi that maybe he also got money and asked for his share," Arif Ahmadi told the BBC.

Now the family hope Quetta will provide a chance of a better life, even though Murtaza and seven of his family members are all crammed into one room.

They briefly stayed in the capital Islamabad but found it too expensive.

Meanwhile, Murtaza is keeping busy dodging camera crews and working on his football skills, hoping to meet his hero.

"Messi, you know how much I like you. Now I want you to invite me so I can come and meet you," he told the BBC.

The Unicef ambassador, who stars for Barcelona, has said he would like them to meet too but no plans have been arranged so far.

Earlier this year the Afghan football association promised to bring them together, whether in Afghanistan, Spain or a third country.

Murtaza's father said none of the options had worked out so far.

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