UEFA Competition Director Giorgio Marchetti holds the card for FC Shakhter Karagandy during a Champions League qualifying round in Switzerland earlier this summer. The Kazakh team was warned this week by the UEFA for its ritual animal slaughter before games. (Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Union of European Football Association (UEFA) issued a warning to soccer team Shakhter Karagandy of the Champions League to stop its ritual slaughter of animals before games, according to a report Wednesday from the Associated Press.
Shakhter is currently the lowest-ranked team in the Champions League as it looks to qualify for a 32-team group stage for the first time ever. The UEFA issued a letter to the club, saying the practice of animal slaughter "was not acceptable in or around our competitions" and threatened "sanctions" if it happens again.
Most recently, the club from Kazakhstan killed a sheep last week at the Astana Arena before their 2-0 playoff win against FC Celtic of Glasgow. According to the report, Shakhter's coach Viktor Kumykov suggested the ritual would be repeated for their rematch vs. Celtic on Wednesday. He added that every club has its own set of rituals and that this particular custom could help his players "relax" before the game, according to a report from The Scotsman:
"All I can say is that every team and every club has its own pre-match traditions and rituals. Celtic must have their own. We will try to respect our traditions and those traditions were in place even before we came to the club....This tradition may have certain psychological impact on players that can help them to relax before the game."
Asked if the ritual would take place, he replied: “Possibly, yes.”
According to The Scotsman, the Scottish SPCA said that animals can only be slaughtered in licensed premises and asked Celtic officials to ensure that sheep are not allowed on the grounds during the rematch Wednesday. The SPCA said anyone who violates this rule would be committing a criminal offense and could face prosecution.
Animal Concern Advice Line's Secretary, John Robbins, issued a letter to Scotland police asking them to arrest anyone who repeats "this superstitious nonsense."
"I ask Police Scotland to closely monitor Mr Kumykov and his team during their stay in Scotland and if any attempt is made to repeat this superstitious nonsense and sacrifice a sheep, to immediately arrest all those involved and charge them."
PETA also urged the UEFA to ensure that the pre-game ritual does not continue:
"We are deeply disturbed that a sheep was stabbed to death in an attempt to bring good luck to the Kazakh team...We hope Mr Platini will agree that animal sacrifice has no place in modern society, and we hope the Uefa will act swiftly to ensure that the beautiful game is not further stained with the blood of animals.”
Scotland police issued a statement in response to the controversial practice, reassuring opponents of the slaughter that it will not continue in Scotland.
"There will be no pre-match ritual which deviates from normal pre-match activity at any Scottish games.”