1. In January, an image of a child who had modified a blue and white plastic bag to resemble a Lionel Messi Argentina shirt was shared heavily by people in Kurdistan and Turkey.
2. The image was soon being shared throughout the world, and a campaign was launched to try and find the mystery child, so he could be given a real Messi shirt, and possibly even meet his idol.
3. Shortly after the original image went viral, another image of the child was tweeted, this time showing his face.
There had been hoax stories in which people had come forward claiming to be the child in the photograph.
Robin Hirori, a football fan from Sweden, says he was sent the above image by a Facebook profile claiming to be that of the boy’s brother, and tweeted the image in response to the hoax stories.
Attempts by BuzzFeed News to contact the Facebook profile from which the photo was sent were unsuccessful, but the name being used by the profile was Hamayon Ahmadi.
4. After a week of searching, I was put in contact with an “Ahmadi” family in eastern Afghanistan, who claimed to be the child’s family. As proof, they sent me an image of the boy wearing the plastic bag and holding up a sign on which he had written my name.
According to an English-speaking mediator helping me to communicate with the family, the child said “but my name’s not Richard!”, when holding up the sign.
5. The boy is called Murtaza Ahmadi, and he lives with his family in a remote village in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
The village is so remote that the family have travelled to Kabul in order to seek a location for delivery of donations from strangers who have been touched by Murtaza’s story.
7. A source close to Messi told BuzzFeed News in January that he wanted to do something special for the child after seeing the image and being touched by the creativity the boy had shown in creating the replica T-shirt.
And now, Italian newspaper, Gazzetta World, have reported that the Afghan Football Association that there has been dialogue between the Association and FC Barcelona, Messi’s club, and that there are plans for Murtaza to fly to Spain to meet his idol.
“We have been in contact with Leo Messi and Barcelona to arrange a meeting,” Afghan FA spokesman Syed Ali Kazemi is quoted as saying.
There is no confirmed date for the meeting, but the news that Messi has seen and acknowledged the photo has come as a huge update for Murtaza, who wants nothing more than to meet the Argentine superstar.