The father of a 5-year-old Afghan boy who received autographed shirts from Lionel Messi says they are eager to travel to Spain to meet the soccer great.
Mohammad Arif Ahmadi said Friday they want to thank Messi, also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, in person.
The boy rose to online fame a few weeks ago when a picture of him wearing a homemade Argentina shirt with the No. 10 on the back was posted on social media.
Afghan soccer federation spokesman Ali Kazimi said they have prepared passports for the boy, his father and uncle to travel to Barcelona, Spain, where Messi resides. He said they are waiting for a response about a meeting.
The boy, Murtaza Ahmadi, was photographed on Thursday wearing Messi's signed Argentina shirt at UNICEF'S office in Kabul.
The boy, who lives in a remote village in war-torn Ghazni province, has already had his dream come true.
The boy, who does not speak fluently yet, told EFE by telephone how much he liked "Meshi" and wanted to "meet and play" with the Barcelona and Argentine national team star.
Murtaza, a member of the Hazara minority, had asked his family for a Messi jersey, but it was impossible to get one due to the remote location of his village, the boy's father, Ahmadi.
"In fact, he woke up in the middle of the night and started crying in his bed, until he found a plastic bag one day and took it to his brothers so they could make a Messi jersey for him," the poor farmer said.
The boy continued wearing the homemade plastic jersey when he played with his friends, shouting at them that he "is Messi," Ahmadi said.
"Murtaza always hits his brothers (fans of Real Madrid star striker Cristiano Ronaldo), he jumps on them and hits them while they watch soccer matches," the father said.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press and EFE.