From dream to nightmare: Afghan 'Little Messi' forced to flee
A true Messi fan
Murtaza and his family abandoned their home in southeastern Ghazni province in November, along with hundreds of others fleeing intense fighting after the Taliban launched an offensive in the previously safe area.
Now they are among the thousands of similarly uprooted people struggling to get by in Kabul, and also living with the fear that the Taliban are hunting for their famous son.
What took away his happiness
Media met with the family recently in the cramped room in Kabul they are renting from another impoverished family, where Murtaza's mother Shafiqa told how they had fled their home district of Jaghori in the night after hearing gunshots.
"We couldn't take any of our belongings, we left only with our lives," she said, her face half hidden by a scarf.
The family belongs to the Shiite-denominated Hazara ethnic group, who were targeted by the Sunni Taliban in their November operation in Ghazni.
The UN says up to 4,000 families fled, with witnesses describing "absolute terror". Hundreds of civilians, soldiers, and insurgents were killed in the fighting.
Messi admired this 'tiny fan'
The media hype drew the football superstar's attention, and that year Murtaza met his idol in Qatar, where he walked out onto the pitch clutching Messi's hand as a mascot for a Barcelona friendly.
Messi, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, also gave his tiny fan an autographed jersey and a football.
Taliban targets Ahmadi family
"(They) said if they capture him, they will cut him into pieces," Shafiqa said, her eyes horrified.
Sports were rarely tolerated under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, and the Kabul football stadium was a well-known venue for stonings and executions.
Shafiqa said she hid her famous son's face with a scarf to prevent him from being recognised as they fled.
They took refuge first in a mosque in Bamiyan, before arriving in Kabul six days later. Among their belongings left behind are the football and jersey signed by Messi.
Although Afghan security forces have beaten back the Taliban in Jaghori, the family says it no longer feels safe.
No longer safe in Afghanistan
They returned reluctantly to Jaghori after their money ran out, Shafiqa said.
Murtaza's father Arif remains in Jaghori working as a farmer while his family lives in Kabul under precarious conditions, with inadequate shelter, food, water or sanitation available to the refugees.
They are among the more than 300,000 Afghans -- 58 percent of whom are under the age of 18 -- who have fled their homes due to violence since the beginning of this year alone, according to the most recent tally by the UN's agency for humanitarian affairs.
Little Murtaza's optimism
"I want them back so I can play," he told.
"I miss Messi," he added.
"When I meet him, I will say, 'Salaam' and 'How are you?' Then he will reply saying thank you and be safe, and I will go with him to the pitch where he will play and I will watch him."