Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Match 12 - Fiorentina

My ongoing odyssey of Italian football took me down to Florence in February to catch Fiorentina. Here's a bit of what I've scribbled down about it all.

Football’s origins are vague, but a somewhat primitive form of the game was played in Florence as early as the fifteenth century. Thought to be a take on the Roman game of Harpastum, this calcio storico fiorentino was played by the aristocracy, and it’s said that even Popes took part. In that savage time, before gyms and football stadiums arrived to allow men (for it was always just for men) let off some steam, this game, with rules that allowed head-butts, punches and chokes let people’s inner demons escape without turning into a disorganised riot. Rucking in a sandpit in a piazza, referees watched over what was in essence organised civil disorder between teams that represented different neighbourhoods of the city fighting for bragging rights. 

What seems to be a more violent mix of rugby and the footballs both regular and Gaelic, is still played every year in June. While the rules are unchanged and players from the teams wear their respective colours, their strips now bear sponsorship, or at least do so for as long as the players keep them on - playing such a physical game in June means it gets pretty hot so the shirts are often quickly discarded. 

Thankfully, we tell ourselves that we’re much more civilised nowadays, what with playing on grass and commentators always sounding disappointed when there’s a bit of handbags between players (even though I’m sure some of them must be yearning for a proper scuffle to break out), so I guess we must be more enlightened. Plus, of course, football players aren’t allowed to take their strips off, no matter how hot it gets, for fear that the sponsors might be deprived of exposure. That’s progress, of a sort.

While calcio fiorentino can be traced back centuries, this match’s focus, Associazione Calcio Fiorentina, were founded in 1926. From my early days of watching Serie A on Channel 4, I always found Fiorentina an intriguing team. A combination of the striking purple strips, the goals of Gabriel Batistuta and the unusual back-story of Moreno Torricelli (not to mention the club’s fantastically exotic-sounding name to my teenage ears) meant that Fiorentina always stuck out for me. Of course, being one of the sette sorelle (seven sisters - the seven dominant clubs of the 90’s) they’ve also done reasonably well, trinkets-wise. That said, despite often having a relatively strong team, they’ve won Serie A just the twice, the last time being in 1969. They’ve had more luck in the cups, having won the Coppa Italia six times. They’ve also won the Italian equivalent of the Charity Shield and the Cup Winners’ Cup. 


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