Currents News Staff
Fame has a totally different price in Afghanistan. Meet Murtaza, aged 7.
His bid to emulate his football idol, Lionel Messi, with a plastic bag as a football shirt and a handwritten number 10, went viral over two years ago.
He got this signed shirt, and even met the Argentinian star in Qatar.
But this is a story of unintended consequences, and how celebrity in Afghanistan doesn’t mean paparazzi or footballer’s wives.
But threats, and fleeing your home in the night.
Soon after Murtaza’s fame, the Taliban attacked their village.
“The Taliban were killing our relatives HE SAYS and they were searching houses.They ‘d stop cars and kill their passengers, searching houses and killing people. I told my mother to take me … somewhere else.We weren’t allowed to play football by the Taliban or even go out of the house. We used to hear the sound of heavy machine guns, and Kalashinkovs, and rockets at home. We also heard people screaming. Then my mother decided to bring me here,” said Murtaza Ahmadi.
His father took them to a nearby city, but had to stay behind to fight.
“The last time I saw my father HE SAYS was on the first day we came here. Then he went back, and I haven’t seen him since then. I miss him so much. When he calls my mother I also talk to him,” he said.
Even here, they live behind closed doors, says his mother Shafiqa.
“It would have been better if Murtaza hadn’t gained fame SHE SAID. He spends all of his time here inside the house. Not only the Taliban, but some other groups also started thinking that Messi might have given him a lot of money. We stopped sending him to school and we were being threatened all the time,” Shafiqa Ahmadi.
She appeals again to messi to help them leave Afghanistan.
But their story is just one in the spotlight, where there are millions of displaced here in the growing darkness.
Murtaza hails from the Hazara minority, often persecuted by the Taliban, and fearful of their ascendance in any peace deal with the Americans.
“In Kabul, I cannot go outside the house HE SAYS My mother doesn’t let me go out. She is afraid. I only play with my friend inside- When I was in my hometown, I couldn’t wear my Messi jersey because I was afraid someone will hurt me. I want to be taken from this country because there is fighting in here. I want to become a football player like Messi and play with Messi,” said Murtaza.
Caught now, like much of the country, in the gap between how much foreigners are willing to do to help, and what Afghans need.