ANIMALS and football don’t mix. (Although I did once have a cat who was quite nifty at Subbuteo. She would just paw the ball into the goal.) Proof of that has come thanks to Argentinian defender Gaston Aguirre – who will now forever be known as “the pigeon killer”.
Aguirre hit and killed a piegon with a clearance while playing for San Lorenzo against Tigre in an Argentinian league play-off game (or as Metro described it, a round-robin match).
“I kicked the ball and, poor pigeon,” said Aguirre, too distraught even to speak in fully-formed sentences. “Now I will forever be remembered as the pigeon killer.”
It’s hard to tell when: a) You’ve only seen the quotes written down, and b) They’ve been translated from Spanish – but I sense genuine concern in Aguirre’s comments that he will forever be known solely for killing a bird.
A quick glance at Aguirre’s CV suggests he has had a decent career; a handful of caps for Argentina’s Under-23 side, an Apertura title medal with Newell’s Old Boys in 2004 (Argentina, confusingly, has two championships a season, one in the winter and one in the summer.)
He could yet win another title medal this weekend, as San Lorenzo – having beaten Tigre 2-1 – now face Boca Juniors with a chance to win the Apertura championship. (Perhaps there will be a minute’s silence before kick off.)
I suspect, though, the he can win as many championship medals as he likes, and it still won’t save him from being lampooned as the pigeon killer on ‘Ann Widdecombe’s Football Howlers’ or some such DVD nonsense. There is a very real danger that Aguirre will, dare I say, be pigeon-holed. (Ayyyy-thang-yow.)
It happened to Chic Brodie, the Brentford goalkeeper remembered as the man who has his professional career ended when a stray dog ran into him, shattering his kneecap. (Brodie, though, did go on to play semi-pro football for Margate, conceding 13 goals in an FA Cup tie at Bournemouth. Perhaps he is better off being remembered for the dog thing.)
Just occasionally, though, an animal can be a force for good in football. For instance, in 1987, Bryn the police dog actually saved Torquay United from relegation to the Conference.
Torquay needed a draw to stay up, but were 2-1 down with seven minutes left when full-back Jim McNichol went to take a throw-in. However, Bryn interpreted this as an attack on his police handler, and bit McNichol on the upper thigh.
As a result, several minutes of injury time were added, during which Torquay managed to scramble an equaliser. Twenty years later, Torquay were relegated to the Conference anyway – but Bryn had long since gone to the great kennel in the sky by then. You can’t always rely on a police dog to save you.
Aguirre, it seems, will now join that list of footballers remembered chiefly for an animal nightmare. I just hope that if San Lorenzo are crowned champions of Argentina, he doesn’t dedicate the victory to the dead pigeon.