Lionel Messi has met the Afghan boy who became famous after being photographed wearing a homemade shirt bearing the Argentina star’s famous number 10.
A photograph of six-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi wearing the shirt, which was made from a striped blue plastic bag, went viral in January.
Messi responded by sending Murtaza a real Albiceleste shirt, but on Tuesday, Barcelona travelled to Doha to play a friendly against Al Ahli and Messi greeted the youngster before the game.
Murtaza also took part in the team photograph and placed the ball on the centre spot before kick-off.
“I’m very happy to have met my hero. It is a dream for me,” said Murtaza, in quotes supplied by the World Cup organizing committee.
Murtaza, who is now aged six, walked out onto the field with the five-time world player of the year before Tuesday’s match.
The boy became an internet sensation early this year when pictures of him playing near his home in eastern Ghazni province were widely circulated.
They showed him wearing a plastic bag – in blue-and-white stripes, like the Argentina national team jersey – with Messi and the number 10 written in black marker.
A few weeks later, Messi sent signed Barcelona and Argentina jerseys to Murtaza.
Murtaza’s father, Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, said in May that the family was forced to leave Afghanistan amid constant telephone threats and fears that Murtaza would be kidnapped because of his sudden notoriety.