THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

Comments (2)
Comment by Tacuara 2010-09-24 17:49:33

Benfica have used a few eagles, all named "Vitória", since the opening of the new Estádio da Luz in 2003. The first eagle was a superb performer who rarely, if ever, missed the podium on her flight down from the upper tiers of the stadium. Upon retirement, she was moved downstairs to the club shop, where she sat for a few seasons in a smelly corner waiting for punters to cough up €5 to get their picture taken with her. An truly inglorious end and million times more repulsive and cruel than the trickery she was expected to perform before Benfica's home games.

The next Vitória was introduced sometime around 2007, sadly she'd lose her head on many occasions - especially in the big games. In one Lisbon derby, she uncerimoniously landed on her arse, much to the delight of the travelling Sportinguistas. In another game, she tried to make a break for freedom, flying straight out of the stadium. The search lasted for a couple of days before she was found a put back to the living-club-emblem grindstone. A couple of weeks later, Vitória decided to attack some travelling Guimarães mocking her upon her descent. I'm fairly sure this is the Vitória who was sold to Lazio, because this season a more slim-line eagle has been regularly making it to the podium with few signs of stage fright.

Comment by phnompenhandy 2010-09-27 05:46:55

I think a lactating wolf charging around the pitch, snarling at the opposition supporters would be a more fitting emblem.

Or maybe Norwich could follow suit and have a canary do a loop-the-loop ahead of home games to inspire the team.

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