Afghan boy and Lionel Messi fan Murtaza Ahmadi wears his shirt made from a plastic bag. AFP
Dressed in a tatty makeshift Lionel Messi soccer shirt styled from a plastic bag,
Murtaza Ahmadi, 5, can often be seen playing on muddy ground in front of his home in the eastern province of Ghazni.
"My greatest desire is to meet with Messi one day, to learn from him and become a star like him," Murtaza said.
With his room adorned with posters of the star, the child known locally as Messi-e-Kochak (junior Messi) gained worldwide fame after photos of him dressed in the makeshift Messi shirt were posted on Facebook by his elder brother Hamayon.
Internet users quickly launched a global search to identify the youngster, and an Iraqi television program initially claimed that the boy was from Kurdistan in Iraq.
However, Murtaza's uncle and some Afghan youths correctly identified one of Messi's youngest fans.
Living with his eight-member family in the remote village of Qambar, about 150 kilometers south of Kabul, Murtaza plays every day with a deflated ball, hoping to fulfill his dreams of becoming a soccer star.
Inspired by Messi's personality and achievements, the boy never misses a match on TV in which the star is playing, according to his father, Arif Ahmadi, 44.
"One day, Murtaza brought home a plastic bag from his uncle's house and asked his brother Hamayon to fashion it into a shirt like Messi's," Ahmadi said.
The brother finally made the shirt with Messi's name scrawled on it in marker pen before posting the photos on Facebook.