Celtic's quest to qualify for the Champions League proper hit a bump in the road on Tuesday when they were defeated by Kazakhstan Premier League champions Shakhter Karagandy in the first leg of their play-off round tie.
Perhaps it was the wearisome 4,000-mile trip from Glasgow that caused the unexpected loss, or maybe it was the intimidating atmosphere created by 20,000 fervent home fans at the Astana Arena. It is also possible they were thrown by the knowledge that the home team had sacrificed a sheep in the stadium before a training session the previous day.
Understandably, news of the ritual slaughter piqued animal rights campaign group PETA, who weren't sheepish (sorry) when they wrote a condemnatory letter to UEFA president Michel Platini. The Guardian reports:
In a letter to Platini, Peta points to Uefa's claim to be "forward-looking" and Platini's own words describing Uefa's "duty to protect the game, the players and our values" and asks him to use his influence to stop any further slaughter in this season's Champions League and Europa League.
"We are deeply disturbed that a sheep was stabbed to death in an attempt to bring good luck to the Kazakh team," says Peta's associate director Mimi Bekhechi. "We hope Mr Platini will agree that animal sacrifice has no place in modern society, and we hope Uefa will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that the beautiful game is not further stained with the blood of animals."
Shakhter manager Viktor Kumykov is thought to have overseen the throat-slitting ritual, but refused to disclose any further information about it in his pre-match press conference.
Perhaps through fear of showing similar cultural insensitivity to his bumbling FIFA equivalent Sepp Blatter, Mr Platini has yet to respond to PETA's protests.
Celtic, meanwhile, will be hoping to make their Kazakhstani visitors proverbial lambs to the slaughter when they visit Parkhead for the return leg next Wednesday.
- Sports & Recreation
- Michel Platini