Identity of boy in Messi plastic bag jersey traced to Afghanistan

The mystery behind a photo showing a boy clad in a homemade football shirt made of plastic bags has been solved, thanks to the power of the internet.
PHOTO: Twitter @messi10stats

The mystery behind a photo showing a boy clad in a homemade football shirt made of plastic bags has been solved, thanks to the power of the Internet.

The photo showing "Messi's biggest fan" had been making its rounds online with many online users trying to identify the boy, who has now been identified as five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi from a rural area in Afghanistan.

Murtaza could be seen clad in blue and white striped plastic bags - the colours of the Argentinian national football team, with Lionel Messi's name and jersey number scrawled on the back of the makeshift shirt.

His passionate display, as well as his inability to afford a replica shirt of the Barcelona forward, tugged the heartstrings of thousands of online users.

BBC Trending found a Twitter user @joynaw5, Azim Ahmadi who claimed to be the uncle of the boy. Azim later passed BBC Trending the mobile number of his brother Arif, Murtaza's father.

Arif confirmed that the boy in the photo was his son Murtaza, and said that the viral photo was taken by his oldest son Hamayon, who then posted it on his Facebook page.

The family lives in the Jaghori District, in the eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.

"This little kid really loves Messi and football. It is not possible for us to buy [a jersey] for him. Because I am a simple farmer. So the kids decided to use the plastic," Arif told BBC Trending.

According to BBC Trending, rumours abounded that the Argentine footballer wanted to find his young fan to give him a proper shirt.

A Lionel Messi fan account on Twitter claimed that it "got a (Direct Message) from Leo's team. They want to know who this kid is so that Leo can arrange something for him."

The photo was originally posted on Twitter with the caption 'Messi in Duhok, Iraq'. by user @illMindOfRobin. The caption turned out to be a lie.

Explaining to BBC trending that he got the photo off his Facebook feed, the high school student living in Sweden said that his parents grew up in Dohuk, and he wanted to give the place some "slight recognition".

Using that false lead, Kurdistan TV even tracked down a boy called 'Homin' who claimed to be the child in the photo, but was later debunked.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

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