The match of the 27th round of the Russian Professional football League (PFL) (the third highest division of Russia) between Pyatigorsk "Mashuk-KMV" and "Angusta" opened a very unusual way, reports the Chronicle.info with reference to the Apostrophe. With the referee taking the ball from the animal's claws, it then appears to join in with applause from the crowd.
Russian bear and unidentified handler.
This is just the latest in a long line of troubling incidents to occur in Russian Federation ahead of the 2018 World Cup, with less than two months to go until the home nation's opening clash against Saudi Arabia.
Elisa Allen, Animal Welfare Charity Director at PETA blasted the incident as cruel and "utterly out of touch".
She said that bears are wild and their hnadlers should always take note of their needs.
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The stunt elicited sharp condemnation from animal welfare groups.
"In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright risky", Allen said. Common decency should compel the league to pull this stunt'.
Brian da Cal, country director of Four Paws UK, said: "While some supposedly find this depressing scene "entertaining" there is nothing at all light-hearted about this kind of abuse".
According to FC Angusht, which posted video, Tim, described as an "honored guest", will be a "participant of the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow".