The AEK football stadium is well under construction and the golden eagle mascot of the club is now familiarizing itself with its new environment.
It is a tradition for some football clubs that have the eagle as their emblem to have a real eagle fly in the stadium before the game.
AEK have the double-headed eagle as their emblem, the symbol of Byzantium. The club was founded in 1924 by Constantinople Greeks who fled persecution by the Turks in the 1920s.
The new football stadium, dubbed Hagia Sophia by AEK FC president Dimitris Melissanidis, is full of Byzantine design elements and decorations
Now AEK are about to join Portugal’s Benfica, Italy’s Lazio, Germany’s Eintracht and England’s Crystal Palace football teams that have their eagle mascot soar over the stadium before a match.
The AEK Football Club, which expects to have its new stadium ready for next season, has already found its eagle mascot, and his name is Odysseus, obviously named after the ingenious hero of Homer’s Odyssey.
The eagle mascot trainer
Stavros Athanasiou, a big AEK fan himself, is the trainer of Odysseus, the mascot that has the club’s followers feeling enthusiastic already.
When the AEK Football Club open the gates for the thousands of fans in the beginning of the 2021-2022 season, Odysseus will be the first eagle mascot, or live mascot for that matter, that will grace a football arena in Greece.
Athanasiou, who has been training birds of prey for 23 years, is also president of the Hellenic Falconry Association. The distinguished falconer has also collaborated with National Geographic.
He spoke to the aek365.gr website about the first training of Odysseus at the football stadium, saying that the bird flew as if the place felt familiar to it.
The falconer said that training will continue almost on a daily basis until the AEK football stadium’s opening. The eagle is a creature of routine and visual stimulation and must be able to form pictures of areas in its brain.
Eagles: An endangered species
The falconer said that Odysseus is a sea eagle with impressive characteristics, such as the width of its open wings reaching 2.20 meters (7.2 feet).
The eagle was bred in a farm in the Czech Republic and Athanasiou acquired him when he was 6 months old. He has been training him for two and one half years.
He is not a wild eagle, but a farmed species, and is three years old now. The falconer said that farms actually replace nature when a species is endangered.
He explained that in the coming years, Odysseus will help in the reproduction of the endangered sea eagle.
The falconer said that a great bond has developed between him and Odysseus during these years.
Athanasiou further said that the idea behind the eagle mascot was not just for flying over the AEK football field before games; he said that the whole collaboration with AEK involves creating awareness about eagles, nature and the environment. So far he has spoken to a total of 50,000 children about nature and environmental issues.
Also, the falconer said there will be actions for the protection of eagles in Greece in cooperation with AEK football.