x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

French Ligue 1 squad decide to fly in the face of ban over eagle mascot

The eagle mascot was unleashed at Nice’s home game against Lorient on Saturday night, two days after the French Professional League imposed the ban.

A royal eagle flies before the French L1 football match Nice vs Marseille on October 18, 2013 at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE
A royal eagle flies before the French L1 football match Nice vs Marseille on October 18, 2013 at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE

The French Ligue 1 side Nice are furious at the professional league for banning their club mascot eagle from flying before matches.

The eagle was unleashed at Nice’s home game against Lorient on Saturday night, two days after the French Professional League imposed the ban.

Nice started using the eagle, which is from Africa, at the start of the season when they moved into their new stadium.

“The competition committee told us Thursday that they were withdrawing permission given at the start of the season for this pre-match event, because they say the eagle is dangerous,” Nice director general Julien Fournier said.

“We have decided not to conform to this decision, which is questionable in every way. We will appeal.”

The club vowed that the eagle will be seen at the two last home games this season.

The eagle flies around the stadium before each home game and then returns to the arm of its falconer in the middle of the pitch. It has become hugely popular and Nice fans and schoolchildren are choosing a name for the bird.

Nice team officials have good reason to cry foul as they are not the first European club to feature an eagle soaring around during home matches. Check out this video, which shows the Benefica eagle Vitória performing its usual pre-match ritual to the fans’ delight.

Before a recent Nice league match against Paris Saint-Germain, however, the eagle was made nervous by the capacity crowd and hid in the stadium roof. In a French Cup game against Monaco in February, the eagle perched on the crossbar.

The eagle is part of the Nice coat of arms. Christian Estrosi, the deputy mayor, said the French league’s decision had caused “incomprehension” in the city.

He called on the league to drop the ban, insisting that the eagle was not dangerous.