Last year, the soccer world's heart melted a little bit when it learned of 5-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi, an Afghani boy who loved Lionel Messi so much that he made his own Messi jersey out of a plastic bag.
A picture of that jersey spread like wildfire online, even reaching Messi himself:
Tremenda imagen. Un niño en Irak se las ingenia para jugar con la camiseta de su ídolo. The Beautiful Game. pic.twitter.com/O7iMtX1bhe
— Juez Central (@Juezcentral) January 16, 2016
The Argentina soccer star was so touched, he sent Ahmadi a gift: A real Messi jersey that bore his autograph. Ahmadi was thrilled. But less than a year later, the gift has turned out to be a burden. The international attention wasn't all positive: It also drew the gaze of the Taliban, which sent a threatening letter to the boy and his family among a slew of telephone threats.
Murtaza's father, Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, was so worried that his son might be kidnapped that the family has since moved to Pakistan,
"Life became a misery for us," the father tells The Associated Press.
The letter from the Taliban prompted the family to flee to Pakistan.
"In the letter, the Taliban asked why my son was not learning the Quran [Islam's holy book] in an Islamic school and why I was instead allowing him and encouraging him to play soccer," he tells the AP.
Instead, the father has sold off all of his possessions to afford the move to Pakistan. The family now hopes for peace and safeguard from any threats from the Taliban.
But Amadi's love for Messi hasn't diminished. He still hopes to meet the star one day.