A SYRIAN migrant has revealed how he fulfilled his dream of joining a Spanish bullfighting team.
Hazem Al-Masri received a standing ovation after appearing at Madrid’s famous Las Ventas bullring during the capital’s San Isidro festival this April.
The 34-year-old from Aleppo – known as El Sirio – studied tourism in his homeland before arriving in Spain aged 18, but is now a banderilla in a Valencian team with ace bullfighter Roman after studying the discipline at the city’s bullfighting school.
Al-Masri, whose team-mates call him Alejandro, was inspired to become a bullfighter after watching a corrida on television when he was a teenager.
“I came to Spain with the idea of becoming a bullfighter,” he said.
“I didn’t know what a bullfighter was, I didn’t understand anything, I thought it was a magic trick, but it seemed unique to me, very beautiful and honest.
“I like risk and think of myself as brave. The problem was that I didn’t know the language: I didn’t even know where I could study how to perform the paseíllo, the ceremonial entrance of bullfighters into the ring.”
After four years learning Spanish, he was heartbroken to discover that at 22 he was too old to become a bullfighter.
Instead, he trained to be a banderillo, one of the assistants who plunge the colourful barbed sticks into the bull’s shoulders.
In 2007, he made his debut in the bullring before joining Roman’s cuadrilla (or team) in 2011.
Despite his success in the ring, he is adamant he has not forgotten his Syrian roots.
“I didn’t endure war and my memories are of a peaceful country, without unemployment and with friendly people,” he said.