Juan Bernabé, the Spanish eagle handler suspended by Lazio for making a fascist salute, insists he ‘doesn’t understand why all this chaos’ erupted after praising Benito Mussolini.
Lazio have been trying to rid themselves of their reputation as a club with very far right-leaning supporters, but it has become increasingly difficult after this week’s controversy.
The falconer who handles the club mascot, eagle Olympia, was filmed making fascist salutes to fans and shouting ‘Duce, Duce, Duce,’ the name used to praise WWII fascist dictator Mussolini.
At first, Bernabé had tried to assure he was ‘right-wing, but not fascist’ and insisted it had been a ‘military salute’ rather than a political one.
However, his interview with Il Messaggero newspaper has effectively undone any attempts to smooth this situation over.
“I don’t understand why all this chaos has erupted,” said the Spaniard.
“Lazio have nothing to do with it, so that is disappointing, but I support the Vox party in Spain, just like many of my football player friends, and I am proud of that.
“It’s true, I shouted Duce and I won’t deny that, because I admire Mussolini. He did great things for Italy, just like Francisco Franco did for Spain. I admire both of them and I am proud of that.”
Bernabé also revealed he has not been officially suspended yet by Lazio, but he has been informally told of the disciplinary action.
“I didn’t know that way of celebrating was banned in your country, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. I didn’t want to create problems for Lazio.”
Mussolini ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 and was executed in 1945.
He went into World War II with Adolf Hitler and passed racial laws, which banned Jewish books, excluded them from public office and even higher education, stripped them of their assets and eventually led to internment.
— La Gazzetta dello Sport (@Gazzetta_it) October 21, 2021