José Amalio González, better known as Pepe, is the parish priest in Coín and he is also president of the Cetrera del Sur (Acesur) falconry association. His enthusiasm for his hobby recently led him to represent Spain at a competition in Dubai, in which ten countries participated.
This was the beginning of a collaboration to create an International Foundation of Falconry Racing and Sports, of which Pepe and his colleagues from Andalucía will be members.
"It was a great experience for us. We have learned about another type of competition and we want to develop that same format in Spain," he says.
Falconry is an activity which involves hunting with trained birds of prey, and the priest is a great fan. His birds have become part of everyday life in the municipality because he looks after them at his home, opposite the San Juan Bautista church. He combines his work in the parish with a hobby which has led him to be the president of an association which currently has 150 members.
"Last September I received a call from the Arab Emirates Falconry Federation. They wanted to start a collaboration with us and after several video calls we agreed that we would go there and visit them," he explains.
In December Pepe went with José Ignacio Pérez, the secretary of the association, to Dubai. They had been invited with all expenses paid, by Prince Ahmed bin Mohamed, to attend the final of the 2022 racing competition, a form of falconry which has been developed in the United Arab Emirates.
"We learned a lot about it and we are going to do more courses online so we can learn even more and be able to start organising competitions here. In Spain falconry is a type of hunting but there is no prey in the desert in Dubai so they invented a speed format instead," Pepe explains.
As the representatives from Spain, they signed a collaboration agreement with the other countries which took part in the convention, including Italy, Argentina, Morocco, Iran and Egypt, among others.
The aim is to create an International Federation of Falconry Racing and Sports, and they hope to have it accepted as an Olympic Sport. If they are successful, the board of Acesur would be part of the International Olympic Falconry Committee. "This collaboration could be very important," the priest says.
In addition to visiting the desert and the competitions, the Spanish representatives also got to know Dubai in detail. "It is a city with a great many excesses: impressive cars, the tallest buildings in the world... what surprised me most was the different classes, which is something that doesn't happen here," says Pepe, who wore his official clothes during the visit. "I had no problems at all, it is a very westernised society. Sometimes more people have looked curiously at me in the street in Spain than they did in Dubai," he says.
What most surprised the Spanish visitors was the buildings in Dubai, including a shopping centre dedicated specifically to falconry. "It was a very interesting trip in general and we were proud to be able to represent the falconry of Spain," he says.
This journey was the first contact in what is planned as a long collaboration, including possible visits by officials from the UAE federation and joint competitions. "Most of the bird breeding centres are in Spain so they know the market and country well. We will continue working together to achieve important things for falconry," says Pepe González.