Retiring Italian soccer player escorted from final match into helicopter by masked men

Masked men grabbed Italian soccer player Ignazio Barbagallo -- who was on the pitch playing in the final match of his career last week --  and tossed him in a helicopter, a stunning scene that appeared to those in attendance like a brazen kidnapping.

But Barbagallo, who played for Citta Di Viagrande of the Sicily League, turned out never to have been in harm's way. One of the masked men left a sign on the field to indicate the whole ordeal was a hoax.

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The sign read, “SERVICIO ELIMINAZIONE GIOCATORI FINITI,” which means “Elimination for finished players,” according to The Sun.

The stunt didn’t appear to put league officials in a joking mood, however.

FOX Sports Italia reported Citta Di Viagrande was fined more than $220 for the incident. The team was also suspended from playing until June.

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Barbagallo, who is known for his pranks, was also suspended until July for leaving the pitch without permission, orchestrating the helicopter landing without permission and causing a dangerous situation, according to FOX Sports Italia. Since he's retiring, though, that penalty doesn't appear to hurt him too badly.