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5-year-old Messi fan forced to flee Afghanistan after threats

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Famous young Lionel Messi fan forced to flee country over threats
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5-year-old Messi fan forced to flee Afghanistan after threats
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, plays with a ball in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, poses as he holds another jersey from Messi in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, plays with a ball in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, poses as he holds his plastic bag uniform in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, poses in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Afghan father Mohammad Arif Ahmadi holds his son Murtaza, 5, and a fan of football player Lionel Messi, as he speaks during an interview with AFP in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta on May 3, 2016. The young Afghan boy who captivated hearts after he was pictured wearing a plastic bag as an improvised Lionel Messi jersey has appealed to the UN refugee agency after fleeing Afghanistan. Murtaza Ahmadi became an Internet sensation in January after his older brother posted the picture on Facebook, with the Argentine superstar sending autographed jerseys to his tiny fan via UNICEF. / AFP / BANARAS KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, plays with a ball in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, poses as he holds another jersey from Messi in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Five year-old Murtaza Ahmedi, an Afghan Lionel Messi fan, wears a shirt signed by Barcelona star Lionel Messi as he plays with a football at his relatives' home in Quetta, Pakistan, May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - MAY 03: Murtaza Ahmedi, a five year old Afghan boy who wears a jersey signed by Messi, poses with a ball in Quetta of Balochistan province, a South-Western city in Pakistan on May 3, 2016. A boy from Ghazni province of Afghanistan became famous on social media in the world after wearing a plastic bag shirt resembling the uniform of international football star Lionel Messi. Messi had also expressed his wish to meet Murtaza Ahmedi. Parents of Murtaza Ahmedi moved him to Quetta from Afghanistan hence they worried about kidnapping, Mr. Wahid Ahmedi, a relative of the boy said. They also appealed to football federations and both Afghanistan and Pakistan government for making arrangements of meeting between Lionel Messi and Murtaza Ahmedi. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The family of a 5-year-old Afghan boy who received autographed shirts from his soccer hero Lionel Messi was forced to leave Afghanistan amid constant telephone threats, the boy's father said Tuesday.

Mohammad Arif Ahmadi — whose son grabbed headlines when he was photographed wearing a homemade Argentina shirt with No. 10 on the back — said they have moved to neighboring Pakistan and settled in the city of Quetta, hoping for a better life there.

"Life became a misery for us," said Ahmadi, speaking to The Associated Press over the telephone from Quetta. He added that the family didn't want to leave Afghanistan, but the threats were just getting more and more serious.

Young Afghan Messi fan flees over kidnap fears

Ahmadi said he feared that his son, Murtaza Ahmadi, would be kidnapped after becoming an Internet sensation after pictures of him wearing a Messi shirt made out of a striped plastic bag went viral.

The family first traveled to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, but couldn't stay there long because of the high cost of living. They later moved to Quetta.

"I sold all my belongings and brought my family out of Afghanistan to save my son's life as well as the lives of the rest of the family," the father said.

Earlier this year, the Afghan soccer federation had promised to arrange a meeting between Messi, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and Murtaza. There were reports that either Messi would come to Afghanistan to visit the boy or that some other arrangement would be made, such as sending the boy to Spain, where Messi plays with Barcelona, or arranging a meeting in a third country.

But none of the options worked out, Ahmadi said.

"Still, Murtaza hopes that one day he would be able to meet his hero, Messi," the father added.

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