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Sun 14 Aug 2016 09:06 AM

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Kuwaiti Abdullah Al-Rashidi strikes bronze in Gunners shirt

Brazilian fans adopt man with no country, had no official uniform to wear as his country was last year suspended from competing for government interference in sport

Kuwaiti Abdullah Al-Rashidi strikes bronze in Gunners shirt
Abdullah Alrashidi. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

Kuwait's Abdullah Al-Rashidi had to settle for bronze in the Olympic men's skeet competition on Saturday - but for choice of outfit, he beat the field.

The 52-year-old won his first Olympic medal in six Games sporting an Arsenal shirt: the English soccer club nicknamed 'the Gunners'.

The Kuwaiti had no official uniform to wear as his country was last year suspended from competing for government interference in sport.

But Al-Rashidi would not reveal if the choice meant he was a supporter of the north London Premier League club.

"I don't know, I just bought it," he said when asked about his unusual choice of attire.

From the beginning of the men's skeet semi-final on Saturday, there was something about 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.

For Brazilian spectator Daniel Grillo, it was simply his "bigode," Portuguese for moustache.

"He looks so exotic with that moustache," 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 moustache used to be much bigger and is now just a finger-wide greying strip above his mouth.

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.

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