A young Argentina fan from Kerala, who was captured on video crying after his favourite side's shock Fifa World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia, has flown to Qatar to see his heroes in action against the Netherlands thanks to a travel agent in Dubai.
Footage of Muhammad Nibras, the eldest son of former Dubai resident Noufaland and his wife Khadeeja, went viral after he defiantly predicted Lionel Messi and Argentina would bounce back from the 2-1 loss in their opening group game on November 22.
“There are more matches. We will win. Messi will score a hat-trick,” the eighth-grade pupil said in the video, while fighting back tears, as friends and neighbours mocked him over his favourite team's loss.
The South American side, one of the favourites for this year's World Cup, recovered as Nibras had predicted, with wins in each of their next three matches and will face the Netherlands in the last eight.
Touched by the youngster's story, Afi Ahmed, an expat from Kerala who is managing director of Dubai-based Smart Travel which has branches in the UAE and India, flew the hardcore Argentina fan to Qatar to see Lionel Messi and his teammates in action in the quarter-final on Friday night.
The company is also hoping to arrange for him to meet the Argentinian star in person.
The young fan landed in Dubai on Tuesday to stay with relatives before flying to Qatar on Thursday.
"It was hard not to cry."
Nibras, who has missed his exams to fly to Qatar, said he cried tears of joy when the travel agency contacted him with the offer, after his friends and neighbours, many supporting Brazil, mocked him mercilessly when Argentina lost.
“My parents let me go, saying that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. "Exams will come again. And those who made fun of me are treating me like a star now."
While Messi hasn't yet managed a hat-trick, he has scored three goals in the tournament to date. Nibras hopes to see the Argentina star, playing in his last World Cup finals, adding to his tally on Friday night.
“My dad and uncles are also big fans of Argentina," he said. "I cannot wait to see Messi play. I love him so much. I want to see them lifting the World Cup and I will be there to cheer.”
Mr Ahmed, who is funding the trip, told The National that he was impressed by the boy’s fighting spirit.
“One of my staff members from Kerala showed me his video and I was touched," Mr Ahmed, a father of four boys, told The National. "He is a true fan and I wanted to make this World Cup special for him.
“Nibras will fly to Qatar with one of my staff members and we will take care of everything. The parents have trusted me with the boy.
"We even want to have him meet Messi and other Argentina players if possible.”
Mr Ahmed said he also wanted to fly a seven-year-old girl from Kerala, who was seen supporting Argentina on a social media post, to Qatar for the match.
“It was not possible to bring her over because she is a minor,” he said. "I have contacted her parents and promised her a special gift when I go to Kerala next week."