Juan José Padilla, the Spanish matador who lost his left eye in a horrific goring last year, made a remarkable return to the bullring yesterday.
Juan José Padilla, dubbed The Pirate because of the eye-patch he now wears, was given one of the highest accolades when his fellow bullfighters carried him out from the arena following the fight.
Despite not having two-eyed stereoscopic vision to judge distances and the speed of approaching objects accurately, Juan José Padilla showed little trouble killing his first bull in front of a crowd of 5,400.
The matador then dedicated the second 1,100lb beast to his tearful father, fulfilling what he described as an “unquenchable desire to face a fighting bull with the aid of only a cape and a sword”.
Juan José Padilla said: “This is like a dream come true after so many months. I am fully aware that nobody thought I would be back.
“But I am not a hero, just someone who has been given the chance to stay alive and continue his passion.”
Juan José Padilla, 38, known professionally as the Cyclone of Jerez, was the star attraction at the south-western town of Olivenza’s annual taurine festival.
The matador had previously said he was returning to the ring because of a need “to win, to triumph, to be a better man”.
Yesterday’s bullfight was the first time Juan José Padilla had professionally fought since October, when he was seen hobbling from a Zaragoza ring covered in blood screaming “I can’t see”.
Juan José Padilla was wounded in October after he slipped on the sand, a bull’s horn pierced his jaw and it came out through his eye.
The crowds at the Zaragoza’s Fiestas Del Pilar bullfight at the Misericordia ring were left stunned.
Juan José Padilla then underwent a life-saving five-hour operation to repair severe damage to his eye, bone, muscle and skin – his face reconstructed with titanium plates and mesh.
It was not the first time Juan José Padilla, a popular matador who has won many fans for his courage and willingness to face the toughest bulls, had been gored.
In 2001, Juan José Padilla suffered serious injuries to his neck during a fight in Pamplona.
His return to the ring came as the intense debate over bullfighting in Spain continues – with supporters saying it is a key part of its culture and critics claiming it is animal cruelty.
The “spectacle” has come under pressure since the 2007 start of the economic crisis, as public funds to promote fights are cut, and the region of Catalonia banned it in 2011.
But Spain’s new conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is an avid fan and recently inspired the national television networks to start showing fights again.
Coverage had been abandoned in 2006 under the previous Socialist administration.