x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Secret life of mystic World Cup camel

Matar Al Jabre with his camel Waslawi before it chooses a winner between Brazil and Croatia at his farm in Al Marmoom, Dubai. (Sarah Dea/The National / June 8 2014)
Matar Al Jabre with his camel Waslawi before it chooses a winner between Brazil and Croatia at his farm in Al Marmoom, Dubai. (Sarah Dea/The National / June 8 2014)

Matar Al Jabri’s camels know football.

By now, most people of the Emirates and many in Croatia know that his camel Waslawi, The National’s mystic camel, has predicted Croatia’s victory over Brazil in the opening World Cup 2014 game tonight.

Many friends have privately expressed their doubts.

Even Waslawi’s owner was skeptical and cautioned us not to get too excited. When we asked if his camels watch football, or listened to it on the radio, Matar shook his head. Why would a camel watch football?

Still, I can’t help but have full confidence in Waslawi’s predictions. Camels are social and highly intuitive. Matar is quick to point this out. “The camel doesn’t speak but it’s different to other animals. A camel will watch you, it will remember what you do, it will remember you. Only camels and dogs are like this. Only camels and dogs.”

(You’ll understand the significance of this if you’ve ever watched The Littlest Hobo, a 1980s Canadian television show about an itinerant German Shepherd who roves town to town saving good people from the likes of polluters, bootleggers and con artists.)

As an observer of camels, I can tell you Waslawi is already a star in his own right. As a rookie racer, he went by the name Musaihan and sometimes, as you’ll see in the video, Matar still calls him this. A year ago he proved himself on Dubai’s prestigious Marmoum track and Matar upgraded his name to Waslawi, the term used for fans of Dubai’s Al Wasl football club.

Now, some people have asked about Shaheen because there are reports of a second soothsayer camel in Dubai with the same name. Don’t be fooled. It’s not the same camel. Shaheen is the name of a camel pedigree. It’s the camel equivalent to the name John or Smith.

After months at the track, I can assure you we have done our camel research and believe Matar’s camels to be the most knowledgeable in football, if not quite visionary.

Waslawi will no doubt become an international celebrity if (when) Croatia wins. Let it be known that whatever the outcome, Waslawi was already a camel of note and respect on the race track long before he was ever known as a mystic camel.

May the best team win.