Ten-year-old Ali al-Zaidawi, who acted in the award-winning short film “Messi Baghdad,” met Barcelona football superstar Lionel Messi in Doha last week.
“I was so happy to see Messi. I was able to fulfil my dream,” the Iraqi Barcelona fan told Al Arabiya on Monday.
The 19-minute film shows how violence has failed to crush Iraqi children’s passion for football.
Zaidawi, who lost a leg due to the violence in his home country, stars as Hamoudi, who plays football relentlessly despite having a leg amputated in the perilous setting of Baghdad.
Messi met Zaidawi along with children from Palestine, Indonesia and China.
“I asked him if he was meeting us for publicity purposes, or because he was happy to be with us,” said Zaidawi. “He told me he was happy to see me, and he wishes to have a child like me.”
Sahim Omar Kalifa, the award-winning director of “Messi Baghdad,” hailed the meeting as a “great sentimental support for the young actor, especially that he comes from a family that is trying hard to make ends meet.”
Zaidawi is to act in a new movie in Iraq that aims to highlight the plight of children, especially those affected by the violence in the country.
“We were surprised that Iraq has one of the highest number of physically disabled people in the world,” said the Belgium-based Khalifa, who originally comes from Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
The film, as yet untitled, will be directed by the award-winning Mohammed al-Daraji.
The Argentine footballer, whose net wealth is estimated at $110 million, was announced as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2010.
He has established the Leo Messi Foundation to help provide vulnerable children with an education and health care.