The family of the young Lionel Messi fan who went viral earlier this year has been forced to flee their native Afghanistan for safety.
Five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi was pictured in January wearing a blue and white striped plastic bag, with ‘Messi #10’ drawn on the back in permanent marker.
The picture soon vent viral, receiving thousands of retweets on social media, and was spotted by the Afghanistan FA, who said they would try and arrange a meet between the youngster and his hero, but it never materialised.
According to The Mirror, Messi did send Ahmadi two signed shirts and a football, and the story was seemingly done.
But now the boy’s family has been forced to flee to Pakistan, after being targeted by gangsters who would call his father, Mohamed Arif Ahmadi, and threaten them.
“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,” his dad told the BBC.
After becoming fearful that the Taliban might kidnap his son, the family fled to Pakistan where they applied for asylum.
Speaking to CNN, his dad said:
I received 20-30 unknown threatening calls in Afghanistan asking why I’m teaching my kid about football and not teaching him about the Quran.
I thought, ‘I’m not safe here.’ That’s when I decided to come to Pakistan, Afghanistan cannot protect itself, so how can it protect me and my kids?
The family have now settled in their new country, and hope the ordeal is finally over.