The family of a 5-year-old Afghan boy who received autographed shirts from his soccer hero Lionel Messi was forced to leave Afghanistan after constant telephone threats.

Earlier this year, the Afghan soccer federation had promised to arrange a meeting between Messi, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and Murtaza (the boy). There were reports that either Messi would come to Afghanistan to visit the boy or that some other arrangement would be made, such as sending the boy to Spain, where Messi plays with Barcelona or arranging a meeting in a third country.

But none of the options worked out, Ahmadi, the father said.

Mohammad Arif Ahmadi — whose son grabbed headlines when he was photographed wearing a homemade Argentina shirt with No. 10 on the back — said they have moved to neighboring Pakistan and settled in the city of Quetta, hoping for a better life there.

“Life became a misery for us,” said Ahmadi, speaking to The Associated Press over the telephone from Quetta. He added that the family didn’t want to leave Afghanistan, but the threats were just getting more and more serious.

“I sold all my belongings and brought my family out of Afghanistan to save my son’s life as well as the lives of the rest of the family,” the father said.

“Still, Murtaza hopes that one day he would be able to meet his hero, Messi,” the father added.