On January 18, 1977, Lazio star Luciano Re Cecconi paid a fatal price when his heist prank and that of embarrassing teammate Pietro Ghedin at a jewelry store went wrong.
Re Cecconi was a key member of the historic Lazio team that won the Scudetto in 1974, which has fallen into folklore for playing some of the best attacking football the Italian elite have ever seen.
However, Tommaso Maestrelli’s men have also gained a reputation off the pitch for their jokes and far-right political sympathies.
Several players were known to carry guns with them wherever they went and even shoot them for no reason, which created a wedge between them and the other disapproving players in the locker room.
Re Cecconi was generally seen as a calming influence on the squad, but Italy’s Paul Gascoigne became known for doing pranks and backstage shutdowns.
And on a terrible winter evening in January 1977, L’Angelo Biondo (The Blond Angel) went too far in making a joke when he visited a jewelry store in Rome owned by Bruno Tabochini with Ghedin. .
Re Cecconi and Ghedin were seen by most as a troublesome duo who never failed to evoke evil when in each other’s company, and it was no different when they visited Tabochini.
As they approached the jewelers, the couple decided to stay in the background as their friend walked into the store as part of their latest joke.
The door then opened and both players came to life, sprinting into the store and reportedly shouting “Hands up! It’s a stick!” while covering their face with their jackets.
Yet what Re Cecconi and Ghedin did not know at the time was the fact that Tabochini’s store had been raided by burglars weeks earlier, which meant it was suitably prepared for another potential break-in.
When the jeweler pulled out a shotgun, Ghedin quickly raised his hands in an attempt to defuse the situation, but Re Cecconi failed to realize and continued the prank.
Tabochini therefore opened fire and shot the midfielder in the chest at close range, which killed him around 30 minutes after the incident despite being rushed to hospital.
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Re Cecconi died at the age of 28, leaving behind his wife and two children. As he lay on the floor dying, his last words are believed to have been: “This is a joke! This is just a joke!”
Tabocchini was arrested but has never been charged or convicted of murder. He remains one of the most unusual deaths in the history of Italian football.