"I felt my family and I were in danger so decided to leave Afghanistan," said the father of Murtaza Ahmadi, the youngster who became an Internet sensation in January after his older brother posted the now-famous picture to Facebook.
The family reportedly received calls from men berating it for encouraging their son to play football.
The father is hopeful that the UN's intervention will help his son move to Spain - where Messi is based for his club Barcelona - and pursue a footballing career.
Such was the online impact of 'Little Messi' that Murtaza even received an autographed jersey from Messi, via UNICEF.
The family has now applied for emigration and the agency is investigating their application, according to a Quetta-based UN agent.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 7:00 PM IST