Found: The Tiny Internet Sensation in the Plastic-Bag Messi Jersey

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A photo of a little boy wearing a Lionel Messi soccer shirt made from a plastic bag warmed hearts around the world last week, but attempts to locate “Messi’s biggest fan” and hear his story initially fell flat. A rumor that the boy lived in Iraq turned out to be a hoax, and reporters hit a dead end. That is, until Tuesday, when the BBC located the Messi Kid — 5-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi — in rural Afghanistan.

Last week’s hoax fooled Kurdistan TV into thinking that a boy named Homin, living in Dohuk, Iraq, was the same boy in the photo, but it turned out to be a false lead from a Swedish high-school student on Twitter, the BBC’s Trending blog reported. The tipster, @IllMindofRobin, later confessed that he started the Dohuk rumor because he has family there and “wanted to draw attention to the town.”

But that false tip provided the lead that eventually led to the real Messi kid, Murtaza.

The BBC “heard about Murtaza after his uncle contacted @illMindOfRobin to tell him that his nephew was the real boy in the photo,” they reported.

Murtaza lives in Ghazni, in rural eastern Afghanistan, and his father, “a simple farmer,” couldn’t afford to buy him the jersey of his favorite player. So Murtaza and his brothers made their own using what they had: the plastic bag.

It was Murtaza’s older brother Hamayon who put the famous photos on Facebook.

According to his dad, Murtaza is now aware that he’s an internet sensation, and he loves it. He hopes this fame helps his family meet Lionel Messi, and hopes that, in the future, he can be a good football player like his hero.

But before all that, he’s certainly going to get his own Messi jersey from one of the many news outlets that has been trying to find him.