Young Messi superfan forced to leave Afghanistan, says father

A photo of Murtaza Ahmadi wearing a shirt made out of a plastic bag went viral

Murtaza Ahmadi, Afghanistan, Lionel Messi, UNICEF, Mohammed Arif Ahmadi

Murtaza proudly shows off his new signed jerseys and a football he received from UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Leo Messi | Image: © UNICEF Afghanistan/2016/Mahdy Mehraeen

The father of a five-year-old Afghan boy who received signed t-shirts from his football hero Lionel Messi claims the family has had to leave the country.

Mohammed Arif Ahmadi claimed they received threats over the telephone and "life became a misery" when the threats became more serious.

He said: "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".

Mr Ahmadi said they did not want to leave Afghanistan, but he has now settled his family in Quetta, Pakistan, in the hope of a better life.

He also said he feared his son, Murtaza Ahmadi, would be kidnapped after a photograph of him wearing a Messi shirt made out of a plastic bag went viral.

Argentine football star Messi sent the young fan two autographed shirts and a football when he saw the picture on social media.

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, Mr Ahmadi said.

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