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Falconers hope to draw fans to Qatar heritage

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DOHA:

In the deserts of northern Qatar, children with a falcon perched on gloves on their left arms show off their hunting birds in a bid to preserve an age-old tradition.

These “Little Falconers” have gathered in a tent ahead of the football World Cup in the gas-rich Gulf emirate, in a bid to introduce visitors to a practice inherited from their forefathers.

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“This is my first participation in the competition,” says 11-year-old Breik al-Marri, dressed in flowing white robes beside his falcon Gasham, a leather hood obstructing the bird’s view.

“I love Gasham and I take care of him,” Marri said, sliding his left arm into a thick leather gauntlet to protect him from the raptor’s sharp talons.

Falconry was added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2010, in countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Originally a means of obtaining food, falconry… has been integrated into communities as a social and recreational practice and as a way of connecting with nature,” the culture agency said.

“I learned this sport from my grandfathers, father and uncles,” said Marri. “I learned from them the strength of determination and how to take care of the falcon.”

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Marri explains that the hood helps keep the bird of prey calm. As soon as the falcon regains sight, he says, the behaviour changes.

“Once, my brother came while the falcon didn’t have the hood on, and he tried to pet the bird, but the falcon bit him,” he said. “The falcon was scared!”

Marri recently participated with a dozen others in the “Promising Falconers” contest for 11-15 year olds.

The contest sees each young falconer choose the perfect moment to release their bird in order to snatch their prey, a lure waved about 200 metres (about 650 feet) away.

The winner of the contest is the falconer whose bird captures the prey the quickest.

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Also taking part in the contest was 15-year-old Saeed al-Jamila, who named his falcon Hayya – after the special fan passes for the FIFA World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18.

Expressing excitement at the more than one million fans expected to descend on his small nation for the tournament, he hopes to send a message encouraging them to try falconry themselves.

“They should try it, they won’t lose anything,” he said. “It’s a beautiful sport.”

But while excitement abounded for the young falconers in this division, it was undoubtedly the “Little Falconers” aged six to 10 who stole the show.

One by one, they trailed out in a row, each holding a hunting bag, while on their right arm they balanced the birds whose claws were bigger than the children’s hands.

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Eight-year-old Hamad al-Nuaimi stepped out in front of the panel of judges, who began questioning on hunting tools, their uses and properties.

At one point, Nuaimi stumbled for a response to one of the questions, only to be helped along by one of the judges.

The purpose of the contest is to “preserve our heritage and that of our forefathers. We are passing this heritage to this generation,” says panel member Saad al-Muhannadi.

The little falconers are then tested on their ability to properly remove the birds’ hoods, then to successfully place them from their arm to a perch, securing their feet using a special knot.

“Hunting teaches a man perseverance and self-reliance,” said Muhannadi, as the strong scent of coffee wafted from nearby.

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He hoped that the hosting of the World Cup would grant Qatar the opportunity to “spread our culture and national identity”.

Falconry “is an ancient sport, whether in Qatar or other Gulf countries, it is an authentic sport,” he said.





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Uruguay held by South Korea in goalless stalemate

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DOHA:

Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after they were held to a 0-0 draw in Group H on Thursday in a contest where both teams struggled to find the clinical edge.

Clear-cut chances were rare for either side at the Education City Stadium and although Uruguay created more goalscoring opportunities, neither team were able to register a shot on target.

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Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork while South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams to rue missed chances before group rivals Portugal and Ghana meet later on in the day.

Uruguay’s first sight of goal came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who connected with Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and took a touch before firing a half-volley towards goal, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.

The South Americans had begun to find their footing when South Korea, having been patient so far, disrupted their rhythm and launched a counter-attack from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour mark. Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside, skipping past two Uruguay defenders before curling a right-footed effort towards goal, but left back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it away. South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim fizzed the ball into the penalty area and into the path of Hwang in front of goal, but the forward could not keep his composure and sent it over the crossbar.

The closest Uruguay came to scoring in the first half was just before the break, when centre back Godin rose highest to power a header from Valverde’s corner but it bounced off the left post and away from goal. Gimenez made a crucial tackle to deny Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing move from South Korea, while Jung Woo-young blocked midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s powerful strike at the other end. Uruguay saw more of the ball but found few chances to break through the South Korean defence until the closing stages, when Valverde unleashed a thunderbolt in the final minute of regulation time that struck the top of the post.





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World Cup fans in Qatar introduced to Islam

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DOHA:

The Katara Cultural Village Mosque in Qatar’s capital of Doha has become the focus of attention for World Cup fans who want to get to know about Islam.

Multilingual male and female preachers at the mosque explain the religion and tolerance of Islam to tourists.

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Electronic boards about Islam in more than 30 languages at the door are positioned to allow visitors to view them on their phones. And booklets introducing Islam in different languages ​​are distributed to those who want them.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Qatar also launched a pavilion to introduce Islam and its teachings during the World Cup 2022.

Also read: Batshuayi fires Belgium to World Cup

World Cup fans encounter hadiths — words, actions or habits of Prophet Muhammad — on the walls of streets, describing the importance of good deeds.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was last Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

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The tournament’s official mascot, La’eeb, whose name is an Arabic word that means super-skilled player, along with the flags of all 32 participating nations were waving on the field.





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Ronaldo and Brazil enter World Cup fray after Swiss win

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DOHA:

Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to put his painful Manchester United divorce behind him at the World Cup on Thursday as Brazil also make their bow following a win for Switzerland in the early kick-off.

Ronaldo’s preparations for what is likely to be his last World Cup have been overshadowed by his sudden departure from Old Trafford this week after he lambasted the club in a TV interview.

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The Portugal superstar’s form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at glory in Qatar after leading his team to the Euro 2016 title.

The 37-year-old, whose club future is uncertain, is aiming to become the first player in history to score at five World Cups.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his men were entirely focused on their opening Group H match against Ghana despite the distractions of the media circus surrounding their captain.

“The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing,” he said.

“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”

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World Cup favourites Brazil launch their bid for a record-extending sixth global crown against a dangerous Serbia side.

Brazil boast a frightening array of attacking talent including Paris Saint-German forward Neymar and Real Madrid pair Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Coach Tite will be wary of his Group G opponents after witnessing shock defeats for Argentina and Germany already in Qatar.

“In my opinion these players (attackers) will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him,” said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

“The atmosphere in the squad is super-healthy,” he added. “The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection.”

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Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and exited in the first round.

“We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hopes prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for the match at the Lusail Stadium.

Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.

The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.

Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.

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“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon — I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”

Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups — a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.

Son Heung-min was named in the starting line-up for South Korea’s Group H opener against Uruguay at 1300 GMT even though he was wearing a mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye earlier this month.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso selected Luis Suarez up front, with fellow veteran Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Germany coach Hansi Flick said no member of his team was safe after their shock 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday.

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The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.

“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.





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