A Qatar Prince’s Problematic Popularity on the Chinese Internet

A Qatar Prince’s Problematic Popularity on the Chinese Internet

A young Qatari prince has become an overnight sensation on Chinese social media, but many netizens believe it is inappropriate to give the country any positive press

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Hayley Zhao
5:34 PM HKT, Wed November 30, 2022 2 mins read

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has made history on many fronts. Not only is it the first time that a Muslim country has ever hosted the international soccer competition, but it is also the first World Cup to take place during the winter.

This year’s tournament in Qatar has also proven to be the most expensive in history; approximately 220 billion USD has gone into hosting the event.

Unfortunately for Qatari soccer fans, Qatar’s national team started the tournament on a sour note — becoming the first-ever host country to lose its opening game. Locals in the audience were understandably disappointed by the result.

One Qatari fan, in particular, was incredibly outraged.

Dressed in a white robe and a keffiyeh, the young prince furiously flailed his arms in the air and shouted in disappointment. His antics were caught on camera during a live game broadcast, and it didn’t take long for the young man to go viral on Chinese social media platforms.

FIFA World Cup

A juxtaposition of the frustrated Qatari prince and the World Cup mascot La’eeb. Image via Weibo

A hashtag related to the youth has amassed over 630 million views on Weibo, China’s top microblogging site. Some netizens have compared the young prince’s appearance to the 2022 FIFA mascot La’eeb, a keffiyeh-inspired character adored in China.

Many have even turned his expressions into memes, joking that no matter how rich you are or how much money you spend, you still can’t win at soccer.

World Cup meme

A cartoon meme of the prince with the caption, “Wow, there are things money can’t buy.” Image via Weibo

The young prince, who is fully aware of having gone viral in China, has fully embraced his newfound fame. He released a thank-you video to his Chinese fans and even took an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

In the interview, he revealed that his name is Abdulrahman Fahad al-Thani. Based on his last name, many suspect he is the brother of the current king of Qatar or at least a royal family member.

On November 27, the prince went a step further by opening an official account on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, gaining more than 14 million followers in just three days. He has since posted three short videos, and the comments section has been inundated with requests from netizens shamelessly asking the prince to make their dreams come true with his family’s wealth.

Evidently enjoying the attention he is receiving, the prince also opened an official Weibo account on November 30 and has amassed 127,000 followers at the time of writing.

Netizens following the trending topic have described the prince’s reactions to the game as genuine and funny and have praised him for his friendliness toward his Chinese fans.

However, many have also expressed concerns over his popularity and the growing fervor towards the small and extremely wealthy country, which has been fueled by positive coverage like this.

Some netizens on Weibo expressed discomfort with comments about wanting to marry a prince or going to work in Qatar for the high average income, pointing out that Qatar is notorious for its human rights issues, especially regarding women and foreign workers.

As one user on Weibo said, “If you want to marry a Qatari guy or royalty, please educate yourself on how they treat women first.”

Cover image via Weibo

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