Who are Chinese football fans’ favourite players, and why?
When Argentina crowned champions at this year’s FIFA World Cup final after beating France in a penalty shootout on 18 December, it wasn’t just Argentinians who were euphoric. Also thrilled were football enthusiasts in China and the legendary forward Lionel Messi was at the centre of the fever. The national sensation even gave birth to the Internet slang Mei Chui, or Mei’s Flatters, referring to Messi’s Chinese admirers most of whom are post-90s with some post-80s by readapting the footballer’s name in Chinese, Mei Xi
A popular Chinese video game known as Three Kingdom Tactics was reported to have partnered up with the Argentine national football team to launch a World Cup Zone on Hupu (a Chinese online community with a focus on sports and men’s interests) which was dedicated to the team. And players of this video game even went the extra mile to refashion the most common football match instrument, the vuvuzela into a Chinese version – a horn made of ivory – to show their support for Messi and his team during the football icon’s final World Cup.
Mei Chui, or Mei’s Flatters, refers to Messi’s Chinese admirers most of whom are post-90s and post-80s.
A horn was widely used as a sounding device on the battlefields in ancient China and was normally blown when a battle entered the final stages. Therefore, the creation leverages the double meaning of the Chinese word Chui (flattering and blowing) while giving a nod to the ancient wartime video game that is based on the history of the Three Kingdoms at the end of the Han Dynasty.
The endorsement of Messi in China is built not only upon Messi’s football skills but also a long-term relationship with his fans in China, especially China’s women’s football team, through his tenderness. The football star won over the country in 2013 when he made a donation of 15,100 RMB ($2,165.40 income from a charity sale of his signed shirt) to the women’s youth football team in Qiongzhong, a once-deprived region in the upper highlands of Hainan province.
While the donation made the headlines of domestic media including the state-owned People’s Daily, the kind gesture once again became a trending topic in China soon after Argentina’s victory in the quarter-final earlier in December, drawing in over 47 million views on China’s largest microblogging site Weibo as of 15 December.
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