No to circus bear at World Cup: animal rights groups slam use of ‘Tima’ in pre-match show

The animal is led out at the Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk and hands over the ball to the referee before the start of the game

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 7:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 7:45pm

Animal rights groups have condemned the use of a bear that performed before a Russian soccer match.

The routine happened before a Russia second division match on Sunday in the city of Pyatigorsk. TV footage from the game showed the animal being led to the Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk club’s stadium, clapping at spectators. The bear, named Tima, also held the ball before handing it over to the referee.

The stadium’s announcer claimed that the bear will take part in the World Cup’s opening ceremony in Moscow in June, but soccer authorities haven’t confirmed that. The club’s manager says it was borrowed from a circus.

The New York-based World Animal Protection group condemned the stunt on Monday, saying that it’s clear from the footage that “cruel training methods have been used” on the bear.

The incident came at about the same time that Russia’s Premier League announced it was following the lead of its English counterparts by launching an animal logo to win over fans: a red-eyed bear.

While the English top flight has its iconic royal blue lion, Russia has launched a logo of its own national animal just two months ahead of the World Cup kick-off in the country.

The Moscow design studio behind Monday’s re-branding announcement described the animal on its website as: “A bear with eyes burning with passion.”

Russia’s club football has struggled for recognition in the post-Soviet era despite being ranked sixth by European governing body Uefa. Its reputation has been blotted by hooliganism and ramshackle stadiums built by Communist Party planners who valued austerity over comfort. 

Teams such as Spartak Moscow and Zenit Saint Peterburg have faithful followings at home but are hardly a draw outside Russia. The Russian Premier League hopes that is about to change.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse