Royal teen at Qatar World Cup goes viral in China

HONG KONG — A 16-year-old who is believed to be a member of the Qatari royal family has become a sensation on Chinese social media after his visible disappointment over Qatar’s loss in the opening match of the World Cup, with fans affectionately calling him the “dumpling wrapper prince.”

Abdulrahman Fahad al-Thani’s animated facial expressions as host country Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday, along with his traditional Qatari headdress, led Chinese social media users to say he looked like La’eeb, the World Cup mascot.

The mascot La'eeb during the opening ceremony of the Qatar 2022 World Cup
La’eeb during the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 20.Karim Jaafar / AFP via Getty Images file

They had earlier joked about La’eeb’s resemblance to traditional Chinese dumpling wrappers, and so Abdulrahman’s nickname was born. 

“We love him because he is so cute,” one user commented on Weibo, a popular social media platform similar to Twitter. “It’s got nothing to do with politics.”

On Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, users have tried to re-create Abdulrahman’s facial expressions while wearing headdresses they fashioned themselves. Hashtags for “Little Prince La’eeb” and “dumpling wrapper prince” have gone viral, and images of Abdulrahman have become a staple emoji pack for Chinese soccer fans.

Abdulrahman has also joined in the fun, creating an account on Douyin that has amassed more than 15 million followers in less than a week. On Weibo, which he joined on Wednesday as “Little Prince La’eeb,” he has posted twice and gained almost 2.5 million followers. 

“Ni hao. Hello. This is my message for all of my Chinese friends. Thank you so much for all your support,” he said in his first Douyin video.

In an interview with CCTV, China’s state-run 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 to China or to anywhere else, honestly.”

But he said he was happy to have made a positive impression, and he invited people in China to see his country for themselves.

“All of you, all the Chinese fans, are welcome to Qatar to experience our amazing culture,” he said.

Qatar has since been eliminated from the World Cup, becoming the first host country to lose all three matches in the group stage.

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