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INTERNATIONAL

Afghan 'Messi boy' forced to flee home

Afghan 'Messi boy' forced to flee home

MOHAMMAD ISMAIL

REUTERS

The family of an Afghan boy who gained brief Internet fame after being photographed in a shirt improvised from a plastic bag in the colours of his hero, Argentine soccer idol Lionel Messi, has been forced to flee his home after a Taliban attack.

The family of an Afghan boy who gained brief Internet fame after being photographed in a shirt improvised from a plastic bag in the colours of his hero, Argentine soccer idol Lionel Messi, has been forced to flee his home after a Taliban attack.

Fame brings problems

Murtaza Ahmadi, now aged 7, grabbed world headlines two years ago when his brother made him a shirt out of a blue and white plastic bag, with Messi's name and number 10 playing number. His sudden fame won him a meeting with his hero but caused problems for his family, members of the Hazara ethnic minority from Jaghori district in the central province of Ghazni.

"Murtaza became famous around the world and we are not able to walk free and go anywhere. Murtaza and my other children were not able to go to school," his mother Shafiqa Ahmadi said in the home in Kabul where the family is staying.

Taliban attacks

"During the night suspected men were walking near our house and when the Taliban attacked our village we decided to leave." Ghazni, about two hours drive south of the capital Kabul, has been the scene of intense fighting this year. The Taliban briefly overran Ghazni city in August and there has been heavy fighting in Jaghori, forcing thousands to flee. "The security situation is not good and I am afraid to go outside," Murtaza said. "I want to become a footballer like Messi and I want to be able to go to school."

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