RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - From the beginning of the men’s skeet semi-final on Saturday, there was something about Abdullah Al-Rashidi that grabbed the Brazilian fans.
Maybe it was his age, the oldest of the competitors at 52. Maybe it was the fact that the Kuwaiti was competing under the Olympic flag, his country having been banned from competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
For Brazilian spectator Daniel Grillo, it was simply his “bigode,” Portuguese for mustache.
“He looks so exotic with that mustache,” said Grillo, a 24-year-old student.
With scores of other Brazilians in the stands, he shouted “Bigode” in a chant that would not be out of place at the Maracana, the soccer cathedral down the road.
And with a crowd-winning smile, Rashidi went on to win the bronze in skeet, his first medal in six Olympic Games.
“I feel like I am from Brazil and not Kuwait,” said a grateful Rashidi, who is also a falconer. “Thank you Brazil!”
He thought it was a funny nickname, especially since his mustache used to be much bigger and is now just a finger-wide graying strip above his mouth.
Without a national uniform, Rashidi wore an Arsenal jersey for the competition, prompting the question of whether he was a supporter of the English Premier League soccer club.
“I don’t know, I just bought it,” he said.
Like his compatriot Fehaid Aldeehani, who won gold in the men’s double trap event this week, he was sad that Kuwait’s flag did not go up the pole.
“Anybody who doesn’t see his flag, he dies,” said Rashidi. “I need my flag, this is better for me. But what can I do?”
“Maybe after a gold and bronze we can compete again with our flag, inshallah (god willing),” added Rashidi.
The IOC suspended Kuwait in October 2015, accusing the government of interference in its national Olympic Committee.
Grillo did not even know that Kuwait was banned from the Games, forcing Rashidi to compete under the Olympic flag.
“That’s really cool that he won then, I am so happy for him,” said Grillo.
(Refiles to correct typographical error in paragraph nine)
Editing by Meredith Mazzilli