It's an adorable yet heartbreaking photo: A little sports fan wearing a tattered, striped plastic bag as a football jersey, with his idol's name scrawled across it in a marker pen.

Five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi has fast become an internet sensation after he was photographed in the handmade sports shirt to look like FC Barcelona player Lionel Messi.

The little boy's photos went viral after they appeared on Turkish football fan blogs. In true internet style, a global search for the little boy was soon underway.

He was eventually found living in a remote village in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan, south-west of Kabul.


And now, little Murtaza's dream of meeting his idol face-to-face may indeed come true.

The Afghan Football Federation has confirmed that - in an incredible gesture - Messi is keen to meet his biggest fan. While a date is yet to be finalised, the meeting is expected to take place in Barcelona.

"Messi has been in communication with the federation to set up a meeting with the young boy," AFF spokesman Sayed Ali Kazemi told AFP.

"We are working to see whether Messi will come to Afghanistan or the five-year-old will travel to Spain or they will meet in a third country."

Working as a "simple farmer", Murtaza's father, Arif Ahmadi, admitted the family could not afford to buy him a proper football jersey. He had nothing more than a punctured ball to play with.

So instead, Murtaza's elder brother used a blue and white plastic bag to fashion a jersey out for him, just so he could be like his idol.

When AFP tracked the boy down, he told them: "I love Messi, he plays well, the shirt was made by my brother and I liked it very much.

"We do not have a football playground near our house, and the only ball I have is punctured."

He then added: "I want to be like Messi, when I grow up."
This is why they call football "the beautiful game".

- with AFP