24 September ~ Lazio have always been a club steeped in controversy. The list is endless, from the Nazi salutes involving current and former strikers, to their own supporters begging players to throw last season's home game against Inter in an attempt to stop city rivals Roma from having a shot at the title. This time, though, the spotlight has fallen on president Claudio Lotito who, in a desperate attempt at getting fans back inside the Olimpico, turned the stadium into a circus before their 1-1 draw against Milan on Wednesday.
From now on an eagle, the historic emblem of the club, will be released in the stadium before Lazio's home games. The bird, who won’t be named until Lazio’s next home game against Brescia, was imported from Lisbon where another club with an eagle emblem, Benfica, already have a similar scheme.
Before kick-off against Milan, the eagle was brought out to the centre-circle and launched by its trainer into a clear Roman sky. It flew around without a hitch for three minutes as the fans inside a half-full Olimpico roared it on. The crowd's enthusiasm did not rub off on the home players, however. Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring for Milan, but Sergio Floccari hit back ten minutes from time to ensure the points were shared.
The eagle will be flown at the club's training ground Formello for three hours a day, and will perform to the club's official song Un aquila vola nel cielo (An eagle flies in the sky). But president Lotito's gimmick has enraged campaigners. Italy's animal rights protection group Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV) have threatened action against Lazio, and accuse the club of poaching and breaking local council rules preventing the exploitation of animals for commercial gain. "We disagree for clear ethical reasons," explained Gianluca Felicetti, the president of the LAV, in Il Corriere della Sera.
Lazio won't shift their stance despite the storm of criticism from the LAV. Lotito offered a staunch defence, saying the club obtained all the relevant legal clearance for the flight before the game. "The eagle is a symbol of our city,” he said, although Roma fans will argue that is the two figures on their badge, Romulus and Remus, the city's founders according to legend. Salvatore Landolina