The impoverished Afghan boy who made his own Lionel Messi jersey has met his idol, nearly a year after his story went viral.
The world learned about 6-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi in January after he was photographed wearing a blue-and-white plastic bag with the name “Messi” scrawled across the back above a hand drawn “10.”
Ahmadi’s photo went viral after it resembled the FC Barcelona star’s Argentina jersey.
In February, thanks to UNICEF, the boy was tracked down and given a signed Argentina jersey from the player. On Tuesday, the little boy finally met his hero for an experience he won't soon forget.
FC Barcelona were in Doha, Qatar, to play an exhibition match against Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli inside Al-Gharrafa Stadium when the meeting took place.
Ahmadi was among World Cup winners Andreas Iniesta, Gerard Pique and icons like Neymar and Louis Suarez, but it was Messi who held his attention.
As the players hung out with the boy in the tunnel before the game, Ahmadi was seen embracing the Barcelona star’s legs. They walked out hand-in-hand to the field where Ahmadi even found his way into the ceremonial team photo.
When it was time for the coin toss, Ahamdi would not let go of Messi’s left hand as the player picked the side of the field they would defend in the first half. Ahmadi even dropped the ball ceremoniously into the center of the field and ran over to his hero as he was getting ready to play.
Even before kickoff, the boy was like a shadow to Messi, never leaving his side. Messi, who has been awarded soccer's highest indivual honor — the Ballon d’Or — five times, had to politely tell the child to leave the field so he could prepare for the match.
As Ahmadi stood his ground, a referee eventually came to scoop up the boy and bring him to the sidelines.
Barcelona ended up winning the match 5-3, with Messi sinking a goal. Immediately following the game, the club flew back to Spain.
The Spanish soccer club is sponsored by Qatar Airways, which brought them over for the exhibition match.
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup, marking the first time the globe’s biggest sporting event will be held in the Middle East.