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IVÁN FANDIÑO. PHOTO: BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP

BULLFIGHTING

Spanish bullfighter dies after being gored

Renowned Spanish bullfighter Iván Fandiño died in hospital on Saturday after being gored by a bull during a fight in southwestern France, a medical service source said.

Spanish bullfighter dies after being gored

The 36-year-old stumbled in the bullring after catching his feet in his cloak and was gored by the bull, whose horn punctured his lung.

The Basque fighter was performing at the Aire-sur-l'Adour bullfighting festival in France with fellow matadors Juan Del Alamo and Thomas Dufau.

Fandiño had won an earlier fight and cut off the bull's ear. He was photographed being carried away from the scene by his colleagues with blood seeping through his embroidered traditional costume.

Hospital authorities declined to comment but an independent medical source told AFP that Fandiño had suffered two heart attacks in the ambulance and died later in hospital in the nearby town of Mont-de-Marsan.


Fandiño is assisted after being impaled by the bull. Photo: Iroz Gaizka/AFP

The last time a bullfighter was killed while performing was in July 2016 when Spanish matador Victor Barrio, 29, was gored in the chest live on television. Just over a month earlier, 64-year-old Mexican fighter El Pana died after weeks in hospital, having also been gored in the chest.

Hailing from Ordonu close to the northern Spanish port city of Bilbao, Fandiño was well known for his daring, never hesitating to fight bulls that his colleagues had declined to take on. In Bilbao in 2012 he single-handedly took on six bulls put forward by six different breeders.

The centuries-old tradition of bullfighting remains popular in Spain, with around 1,800 shows a year before a total audience of some six million “aficionados” who see the sport as an art integral to Spanish culture.

But authorities are under increasing pressure to clamp down on the sport on animal rights grounds.

READ ALSO: 'Torture isn't culture': Thousands protest bullfighting in Madrid

Activists renewed calls for a total ban after Barrio's death, saying the tradition is both cruel and anachronistic, while a year ago the regional government of Castilla y Leon banned the killing of bulls at town festivals.

The nationalist regional government of the northern Catalonia region outlawed the practice in 2012, but Spain's Constitutional Court overturned the ban in October 2016.

 

MADRID

How the pandemic has put the careers of Spain’s trainee bullfighters on hold

Cries of "Toro, toro!" echo round the empty stands at Madrid's world-famous bullring where two young apprentice bullfighters have seen their promising careers abruptly halted by the pandemic.

How the pandemic has put the careers of Spain's trainee bullfighters on hold
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Wearing a tracksuit, trainers and an FFP2 mask, 22-year-old Alvaro Burdiel holds out his vibrant fuchsia-and-mustard cape in front of him. With his arms rigid and shoulders proud, he has the gesture down to a tee.

A bullfighting hopeful, he already experienced one triumphal entry through the main gate at Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring, borne on the shoulders of his supporters in October 2019 — a matador’s greatest honour.

Right now, he doesn’t know when he’ll be back in the ring again, but he hasn’t missed one of his daily classes on the ochre-coloured sand inside this historic venue in the heart of the Spanish capital.

“We all have ups and downs. But that’s where the passion shows through – in persevering,” he says. “In those moments, that’s what makes you stand out from the rest: not giving up.”

‘Decisive years’

A little further away is 19-year-old Guillermo Garcia who was lucky enough to be chosen to fight on May 2nd in the first bullfight to be put on at Las Ventas in 18 months.

Wearing a sage green t-shirt, he twitches his cape slightly, catching the sand in a bid to provoke the beast in front of him.

But there is no bull today – only a fellow student gripping a pair of horns. His back hunched and breathing heavily, he lunges forward with everything he’s got.

On this April afternoon, there are about 20 young students tirelessly running through the choreography of the bullfight.

Trainee bullfighters at Madrid’s Las Ventas. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

At one side stands a “carreton”, a bulls head mounted on a wheelbarrow-like contraption that can also be used to simulate the charge.

The teachers try to keep their students’ enthusiasm up, despite the uncertainties hanging over the season, which normally runs from March to October but was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

In the southern city of Seville, which is also known for its love of bullfighting, all the events planned for mid-April had to be cancelled due to virus restrictions.

At Las Ventas, the school is run by famed former matador José Pedro Prados, popularly known as El Fundi.

“Slowly! Don’t lift your heel until the last moment, move from the waist – that’s it!” he calls. “We take them to ranches to keep their spirits up and maintain their enthusiasm,” he says.

“Bullfighting schools are having a really hard time” because of the restrictions put in place due to the virus, he adds.

“There were youngsters who were at their peak when everything shut down. And this could end up halting them in their tracks because these are decisive years for many people’s careers.”

Teen in the arena

The stands are deserted except for a handful of workers repainting the barriers ahead of Sunday’s reopening.

Closed since October 2019, Las Ventas managed to get the authorisation to hold a bullfight on Sunday with just 6,000 spectators in an arena that normally holds 44,000.

On the bill are stars like El Juli and Enrique Ponce alongside the young Guillermo Garcia, who is listed as a novillero, or novice matador. Still a teenager, Garcia has got this far thanks to his sheer dedication, says El Fundi.

Trainee bullfighter in Madrid. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

“Since the beginning… there’s always been something different about him, he is serious, he has a lot of strength and enthusiasm and he’s always been very committed to training.”

But Garcia admits he’s had moments of doubt over the past year. “It’s been very hard because you didn’t know if you’d ever get the chance to prove yourself after all this training. But I told myself that sooner or later they were going to reopen the bullrings and that one day I’d get my chance to perform.”

And Sunday won’t be easy, admits the youngster who is studying business management.

“It’s going to be difficult when I go out to fight and see people wearing masks, seated apart and with the stands half empty.”

There also won’t be any triumphal entry through the main gate with the victorious matador carried on the shoulders of his supporters because of restrictions on gatherings.

“That’s just the way it is,” he sighs. “But the bull doesn’t care about the pandemic, it’s all the same to him.”

Even if the health crisis drags on longer than expected, there is no shortage of eager students keen to show off their skill.

One is six-year-old Nico. It’s “practice bullfighting,” he explains very seriously as he dances around the sand in a cape, wielding his miniature sword.

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