HONG KONG — A 16-year-old believed to be a member of the Qatari royal family has become a sensation on Chinese social media after his visible disappointment at Qatar’s defeat in the World Cup opener, with fans affectionately calling him the “Prince of Dumpling Wrapping”.
Abdulrahman Fahad al-Thani’s animated facial expressions as host country Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday, along with his traditional Qatari hairstyle, led Chinese social media users to say that he looked like La’eeb, the World Cup mascot.
They had previously joked about La’eeb’s resemblance to traditional Chinese dumpling wrappers, and thus the nickname Abdulrahman was born.
“We love him because he’s so cute,” one user commented on Weibo, a popular social media platform similar to Twitter. “It has nothing to do with politics.”
On Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, users attempted to recreate Abdulrahman’s facial expressions while wearing headdresses they fashioned themselves. Hashtags for “Little Prince La’eeb” and “dumpling wrapper prince” have gone viral, and Abdulrahman’s images have become a staple emoji pack for Chinese soccer fans.
Abdulrahman also joined in the fun by creating an account on Douyin which garnered over 15 million followers in less than a week. On Weibo, which he joined on Wednesday as “Little Prince La’eeb”, he posted twice and gained nearly 2.5 million followers.
“No hao. Hello. This is my message for all my Chinese friends. Thank you so much for all your support,” he said in his first Douyin video.
In an interview with CCTV, Chinese public broadcaster Abdulrahman said he was surprised by the attention he received in China after the match.
“I was just reacting, just a normal reaction,” he said. “I didn’t expect to reach China or anywhere else, honestly.”
But he said he was happy to have made a good impression, and he invited people in China to see his country for themselves.
“All of you, all Chinese fans, are welcome to Qatar to experience our amazing culture,” he said.
Qatar have since been knocked out of the World Cup, becoming the first host nation to lose all three group stage matches.