Doha, 12 December 2023 - The unveiling of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 mascot marked the return of Saboog, Tmbki, Freha, Zkriti and Traeneh – a family of desert rodents that were first revealed to the world as the face of the 2011 edition of the tournament, also hosted by Qatar.
Qatar-based Katara Studios brought the characters to life through an anime inspired animation and original musical composition that celebrates the legacy of football in the content. Originally designed by Qatari artist Ahmed Al Maadheed, the characters embody Qatar’s culture and natural landscape.
For Fahad Al Kuwari, the creative director behind the animation, the vision was to create a concept that was playful yet nostalgic. The Qatari filmmaker was also involved in bringing the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Mascot, La’eeb, to life.
“Our priority was to highlight the characteristics of the mascot family in a style that invokes memories of the 2011 Asian Cup while inspiring excitement for the future,” said Al Kuwari. “Anime is extremely popular in Qatar and we wanted to blend in elements from it into this body of work, so that it would resonate with both children and adults across the continent.”
Qatari artist Dana Al Meer is the singer and songwriter behind the original musical composition that completes the animated work. Al Meer is well-recognised for her performances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup 2022. For her, being part of the mascot song gave her the opportunity to create a song that would inspire a new generation of football fans.
“The lyrics of the song centre around encouragement and the importance of perseverance and hope. We wanted young audiences to experience the same joy and thrill that we did when watching old cartoons. We hope our work encourages culture exchange amongst fans across the continent,” she added.
As the creative brain behind the mascot, Ahmed Al Maadheed is certain that the new renditions of the characters will make a lasting impression with football fans this time around as well. Al Maadhed recognises the cultural significance of official mascots in acting as cultural emissaries for the host country.
“Our mascot was created to not only promote the tournament, but to also pay homage to the culture of Qatar. The characters resemble a traditional household in Qatar, signifying the importance of family values as a core part of our identity. We want children and families to be part of this tournament and preserve the football culture,” he said.
For Hassan Al Kuwari, Marketing and Communications Executive Director of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 Local Organizing Committee (LOC), the return of the mascot marks yet another chapter in Qatar’s successful history of hosting mega-sporting events. “The opportunity to host the Asian Cup is a dream fulfilled one more time. The mascot song is a fitting tribute to our legacy. It inspires fans to relive their old memories and build new ones, as we come together to celebrate the beautiful game once again,” he said.
The mascots of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 are Saboog, Tmbki, Freha, Zkriti and Traeneh. Since first making an appearance 2011, they have grown up, matured, and are now ready for a new edition of the AFC Asian Cup.
The first in the series of five mascots is Saboog, the blue colored son of the family. His name is derived from the commonly used word to refer to the jerboa – a rodent indigenous to the desert in Qatar. Second is Freha, the pink-colored eldest daughter of the family named after an area with the same name in the north of Qatar. Third is Tmbiki, a yellow-colored younger son named after the Timbic region in the east of the country. The parents are Zikriti and Traeneh, a green-colored father and a purple-colored mother respectively. They are named after Zikrit in Qatar’s west, and Tranaa in the north of the country.