And who can blame him?
Way back at the beginning of the year—before we knew that 2016 would be a never-ending funeral march for everyone the world has ever loved—a picture of a young boy wearing a plastic bag fashioned into a makeshift Leo Messi shirt swept through the internet. Social media users united in an effort to identify the boy with the genuine hope of getting a real Messi shirt to him.
In February, this campaign succeeded and the boy was identified as then five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi from Afghanistan, bringing to light a series of events so adorable that they will turn you into a puddle of warm goo by the end of this post.
“When he suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night, he starts crying that he wants to go to Messi,” his father, Arif Ahmadi, told CNN from the family’s farm in Jaghori, south-west of Kabul.
Murtaza then started asking his father for a Messi jersey, Ahmadi said.
“I told him that we were living in a poor village far from the city and it was impossible for me to get him the shirt.”
“He kept crying for days asking for the shirt until his brother Hamayon helped him make one from the plastic bag to make him happy.”
UNICEF and Leo Messi ensured that Murtaza’s dream came true by getting an autographed (real) shirt to him, and Murtaza’s response was a perfect and heartwarming cap on a story that seemed to have reached its ideal conclusion.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 25, 2016
But this wasn’t the end. Barcelona traveled to Doha, Qatar to play a friendly against Al-Ahly this week and arrangements were made to get Murtaza, now six, and his family to the match so he could meet his hero in person.
Now, if there were any conspiracy theorists who questioned Murtaza’s love of Messi and cynically thought this kid’s parents concocted a plot to get the internet to deliver them a free autographed Messi shirt that they could hawk on eBay, they were shut down when Murtaza proved his devotion by hugging Messi every chance he got.
— ESPN Brasil (de 🏠) (@ESPNBrasil) December 13, 2016
In the tunnel, during pre-match handshakes—the referee had to pick him up and carry him off the pitch because he wouldn’t let go of Messi, smiling the smile of pure, all consuming joy every step of the way.
Few people have loved anything as much as Murtaza loves Leo Messi and to see him get the chance to express this love is a gift to us all.
And now you are goo.