Television

CNN meets the young Lionel Messi fan from Afghanistan who is now a Taliban target

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In January 2016, a photo of young Murtaza Ahmadi went viral, thanks to his makeshift version of an Argentine football shirt of his idol Lionel Messi. The photo earned the child two autographed shirts, a signed football and a meeting with the footballer in Qatar 11 months later.

However, Ahmadi’s fame has made him a Taliban target. CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh travels to Kabul to learn how the seven year old boy and his mother, Shafiqa Ahmadi, live in hiding among the many refugees. Shafiqa tells CNN how it would have been better if her son hadn’t become famous and calls on Messi to “help us to get out of Afghanistan.”

Watch the full article here: https://cnn.it/2Bw8xV2

Key Quotes:

Murtaza Ahmadi on when the Taliban invaded the district of Jaghori in Ghazni province where he grew up:

“The Taliban were killing our relatives and they were searching houses. They would stop cars and kill their passengers, searching houses and killing people… We were not allowed to play football by the Taliban or even go out of the house. We used to hear the sound of heavy machine guns, and Kalashnikovs, and rockets at home. We also heard people screaming."

Murtaza on how his father helped him and his mother escape to the nearby city of Bamyan:

“Last time I saw my father was on the first day we came here. Then he went back, and I haven’t seen him since then. I miss him very much. When he calls my mother I also talk to him.”

Murtaza on his future:

“In Kabul, I cannot go outside the house. My mother doesn't let me go out. She is afraid. I only play with my friend inside the house… When I was in my hometown, I was not able to wear my Messi jersey because I was afraid someone will hurt me. I want to be taken from this country because there is fighting in here. I want to become a football player like Messi and play with Messi."

Shafiqa Ahmadi on her son’s fame:

“From the day Murtaza became famous, life became difficult for our family. Not only the Taliban, but some other groups also started thinking that Messi might have given him a lot of money. We stopped sending him to school, and we were being threatened all the time… It would have been better if Murtaza hadn't gained fame. Now our lives are at risk both in our hometown and here in Kabul. He spends all of his time here inside the house."

Shafiqa Ahmadi’s message to Messi:

“I would like Messi to help Murtaza, help us to get out of Afghanistan so that Murtaza can have a better future."

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