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Rooster mascot barred from soccer final as ‘terror threat’

Kicked out of Sunday’s Euro 2016 game, Balthazar has followed the French team since it won the World Cup in 1998

Balthazar the rooster and his owner (AFP screenshot)
Balthazar the rooster and his owner (AFP screenshot)

Balthazar the rooster, much loved in France for his emblematic appearances at national sporting events, was banned from Sunday night’s Euro 2016 football final in Paris because he might constitute a terrorist threat, his owner said.

“Those knuckleheads from (Europe’s soccer authorities) UEFA sent me a very courteous letter,” said Clement Tomaszewski bitterly, “saying that … Article 7 of its regulations prevents any animal inside the stadium, so Balthazar can’t go in.”

The authorities, Tomaszewski told Britain’s Sky News, said the cockerel “might represent a terrorist threat.”

Tomaszewski was first informed of the ban at the start of the Euro 2016 championships last month, but held out hope that it would be reversed as hosts France progressed through the competition and won a place in Sunday’s final against Portugal.

He said that in the years prior to this tournament, Balthazar had been at every match played by the national team since the 1998 World Cup, and was “an integral part” of France’s football history. “I am 68-years-old. This is my sixth and last Euros,” he said sadly.

Tomaszewski and his unusual pet gained wide attention at the 1998 World Cup, becoming a kind of mascot for the French team.

The Gallic rooster, as embodied by Balthazar, has become an unofficial national symbol for France and a version can be seen on the jerseys of the French football team.

“I am very upset,” Tomaszewski told AFP, recalling that he was a guest of honor at the recent inauguration of a soccer museum in Zurich. There was even a portrait of him and Balthazar among an exhibition of 24 footballing personalities, he said proudly.

The Algerian-born Frenchman and his mascot have run into trouble with authorities in the past: They have been kicked out of some stadiums abroad, as well as from hotels where Balthazar’s habit of crowing earlier than a lot of alarm clocks go off is not always appreciated.

The Euro 2016 tournament has featured stringent security precautions, particularly since the terror attacks in Paris last November included an attack at the State de France stadium, the venue for Sunday’s final.

On Sunday afternoon, outside the French team’s hotel, a suspicious package was blown up in a controlled explosion.

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