With the Fifa World Cup now underway, we've been reminded of the that friendly ghost/napkin mascot, created to accompany the games. It caused much confusion when it was announced earlier this year, and I remain totally baffled.
Named La'eeb, Fifa describes the character as "indescribable", which might explain why everyone's having such a hard time deciding what he's meant to be. But despite the confusion, I'm still finding La'eeb to be a pretty charming example of character design.
He's come from the mascot-verse full of energy and is ready to bring the joy of football to everyone! Introducing: La'eeb - the #FIFAWorldCup Qatar 2022 Official Mascot pic.twitter.com/RrEA6iS6t4April 1, 2022
According to Fifa (opens in new tab), La’eeb is "an Arabic word meaning super-skilled player." Rather than the metaverse, he is said to come from "the mascot-verse" (chortle, chortle), and get ready – he's going to be "everywhere". "Fans will soon be able to download GIFs and stickers of La’eeb via a host of social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp and Snapchat. La’eeb screensavers and filters will also be available for people to download," says Fifa.
But as many have pointed out, it's a little strange to see a "super-skilled player" without any, you know, legs. And from Casper the friendly ghost to a floating napkin to a towel, fans are revelling in mocking the supposedly indescribable character. "Why is Casper playing football? He doesn't even have feet," one Twitter user comments, while another adds, "Okay, who had Ghost Napkin in the 2022 mascot sweepstakes?" Some have speculated that La'eeb is supposed to be a Shemagh scarf, but it's odd for Fifa to take pains to tell us "everyone is invited to interpret what [La'eeb] looks like" rather than just tell us that's the case.
And yet despite the sheer nothingness of his character ("he's whatever you want him to be" seems a bit of a cop-out from Fifa), I kind of... love La'eeb? It's the face, I think. Look at that smile! He looks so happy, so eager to help – even though his ghost/napkin-like form would render him utterly useless for practically any task, except perhaps for helping me to avoid spilling my dinner on myself. But he wants to help, and I appreciate it, La'eeb, I really do. And just look how hard he's trying to kick that ball, even though it's never, ever going to happen. That kind of tenacity is what we need in the world.
Okay, perhaps I've spent too long looking at/writing about animated character controversies in 2022. After the explosive response to both Minnie Mouse and the Green M&M's redesigns this year, perhaps I'm just happy to see a character who's little more than a happy face.
From Casper-gate to the new football design, the 2022 World Cup has proved controversial from a design perspective. If you reckon you could come up with a slightly more, er, solid character design, take a look at our guide on how to download Illustrator.