We all like occasional jokes or pranks in our lives. In fact, I’ve seen and done my fair share of pranks with my friends when we were younger, and even later when we were old enough to know better. Usually, the pranks are harmless, like drawing on friends face while he sleeps, but then there are some pranks you look back at and think to yourself “that could’ve ended terribly”, and while most of them end just fine, same cannot be said for Luciano Re Cecconi, who thought of a prank that proved to be his last.
Luciano Re Cecconi also was known as “l’Angelo Biondo” or “The Blond Angel” was one of the best soccer players of his time. With his speed, strength, athleticism and hard work, he was an irreplaceable part of Lazio squad, where he played from 1972 to 1977. In addition to his phenomenal performances on the field, Luciano Re Cecconi was also known as a “jokester” due to his sense of humor, and numerous pranks he did, which ultimately led to his premature death.
For this story, we travel to Italy to the historic year 1974. Well, it was not a historic year in a greater scheme of things, but it was a historic year for Lazio team who won their first Scudetto in the history of the club and one of the two Scudettos Lazio managed to win in their history up until now.
Luciano Re Cecconi was a part of the Lazio’s Scudetto-winning side in 1974 when they managed to finish in front of Juventus by only 2 points. At that time Lazio had an exceptionally strong team, full of potent attackers, who were considered to be one of the best-attacking lines in football history. Their starting XI consisted of Pulici, Petrelli, Martini, Wilson, Oddi, Nanni, Garlaschelli, Re Cecconi, Chinaglia, Frustalupi and D’Amico, who may not sound familiar to younger readers, but for those who followed Italian football in the 1970s, those were names you did not want to see on the other side of the pitch. However, the team also had another side to them. While they were exceptional players, there were also some interesting… believes some of them had. At that time, Lazio team was notorious for holding extreme right-wing political sympathies, which meant a lot of players regularly carried guns with them. While that may sound bizarre nowadays, it was not that unusual back then. But what made the carrying guns even worse was their recklessness with them. Reportedly the Lazio players shot their guns for no reason, or we can say they shot them “for fun”. That ultimately split the dressing room in 2; those who had guns and those who did not approve of it. Despite the disagreement between the players on the topic of guns, the team still had good chemistry, which was mostly held together by Luciano Re Cecconi.
It was all “fun and games” so to speak, until the evening of January 18th, 1977. On that evening Luciano Re Cecconi, Pietro Ghedin and another friend took a stroll down the town and came to an idea of a “great prank” they can do on Bruno Tabochini, the owner of the jewellery store in Rome. The “brilliant” plan was to cover their faces and stage a fake robbery to scare Bruno Tabochini, only for them to laugh it off later. That plan later proved to be the worst and the last prank Luciano Re Cecconi was to ever make.
Luciano Re Cecconi and his friend entered the store with masked faces and guns out yelling “Hands in the air!” “This is a stick up!”. Even at this point as we read it, it does not look like a smart idea, but this prank might have gone as planned if there was not 1 small detail, which turned it into a nightmare. The jewellery store was robbed only a few weeks earlier and understandably Bruno Tabochini, the owner, was paranoid it will happen again, so he armed himself so he could defend himself next time.
When Bruno Tabochini saw the “robbers” he pulled out his shotgun, to which Cecconi’s “sidekick” responded with rising his hands, while Cecconi continued with his prank and refused to lift his weapon. In shock and fear, the store owner shot at Cecconi from a close range and hit him in the chest. The injuries proved to be too much for the legendary midfielder who was pronounced dead only 30 minutes after the incident.
It is reported that his final words were “It’s a joke! It’s just a joke!”.
But a joke that went too far.
The Blond Angel left our world with only 28 years of age, leaving behind his wife and 2 kids. It was a death that will never be forgotten and a death that will go down as the most unusual deaths that have ever happened in the world of football. This proved to be the prime example of “pranks” gone wrong, however, Cecconi will still be remembered as a part of the legendary 1973/1974 Lazio team who achieved a historic title of Serie A champions.