Young Afghan Messi fan threatened by criminals, Taliban

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 file photo, five-year-old Afghan Lionel Messi fan Murtaza Ahmadi poses for photograph, as he wears a shirt signed

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 file photo, five-year-old Afghan Lionel Messi fan Murtaza Ahmadi poses for photograph, as he wears a shirt signed

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks on during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks on during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A young Afghan soccer fan who shot to fame after he was photographed in a Messi shirt made from a plastic bag has fled with his family to the capital after criminal gangs and the Taliban threatened to kill or kidnap him.

Shafiqa Ahmedi said Friday that criminals threatened to kidnap her now-7-year-old son Murtaza, a fan of Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi, after demanding money.

The picture of Murtaza in his plastic Messi shirt playing soccer went viral on social media two years ago. He met his hero in December last year.

Since becoming an internet sensation, Shafiqa said her son has not been able to attend school and now they are living in a cold, unheated room in Kabul.