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China gifts two giant pandas to Qatar ahead of FIFA World Cup

Pandas ‘Suhail’ and ‘Soraya’ will arrive in October ahead of the World Cup as a ‘new symbol of China-Qatar friendship’.

Giant Panda
China's ambassador to Qatar, Zhou Jian, said that pandas 'Suhail' and 'Soraya' would arrive in Qatar next month [File: Karen Bleier/AFP]

China announced that it will give Qatar two giant pandas to mark the FIFA World Cup being held in the state in November and December.

Chinese ambassador to Qatar, Zhou Jian, said that pandas named “Suhail” and “Soraya” would arrive in the country next month, ahead of the football tournament that will start on November 20.

“This is a gift presented by the 1.4 billion Chinese people for the Qatar World Cup, and will surely become a new symbol of China-Qatar friendship,” the envoy said at a reception.

While China’s team did not qualify for the World Cup, Chinese companies have been involved in the construction of mega projects around the event.

After Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was one of a few world leaders who attended the controversial Winter Olympics in China, President Xi Jinping said he was ready to launch panda cooperation with the Middle East.

China is increasingly isolated from Western powers over issues like its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Consequently, “it is still trying to capitalise on the World Cup and how better to do that than with a bit of panda diplomacy”, said Al Jazeera’s Patrick Fok, reporting from Beijing.

Suhail is the name of one of the brightest stars visible in the Gulf region, while Soraya is the Arabic name for the Pleiades star cluster.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies