Cen­turies of sport­ing tra­di­tion on dis­play in Florence in John’s name

The China Post - - SPORTS -

When it comes to history, soc­cer’s clas­sic derby matches are put in the shade by the Cal­cio Storico Fiorentino, a fix­ture that has been played in Florence since the 16th Cen­tury.

Ev­ery year on June 24, the feast day of the city’s pa­tron saint, St. John the Bap­tist, sees teams from two of the four his­toric neigh­bor­hoods do bat­tle in the fi­nal of a com­pe­ti­tion that wraps football and rugby skills into some­thing that re­sem­bles a mass brawl con­ducted in his­tor­i­cal cos­tume.

The dis­tricts of Santo Spir­ito (the whites) and San Gio­vanni (the greens) were the fi­nal­ists this year and it was the whites who ran out the win­ners on Wed­nes­day in front of a crowd of more than 4,000 peo­ple at the fa­mous Pi­azza Santa Croce.

Bru­tal it may have been at times, but Veron­ica, an Amer­i­can spec­ta­tor, could not got enough of the pe­cu­liarly Floren­tine mix of sport, history and cul­ture.

“It’s some­thing that it is re­ally in­ter­est­ing, as a cul­tural thing, how they take it,” she told AFPTV.

“And so I’ve been com­ing for three years and it’s fan­tas­tic ... I like the heart that goes into it and the amount of cul­ture and tra­di­tion. It is beau­ti­ful.”

Lo­cal seven- year- old Francesco was not about to join the tra­di­tion. “Per­son­ally I wouldn’t play that. I’d rather be a foot­baller,” he said.

Gi­a­como, a mem­ber of the win­ning team, ex­plained the at­trac­tion. “On the field there is adrenalin. But it is also a won- der­ful sport. If it wasn’t great I’d stay at home.”

Pi­azza Santa Croce has al­ways been the venue for a game and these days the el­e­gant square is cov­ered in mud to make it like it was in the early days of the con­test, when it was re­served for aris­to­crats and played ev­ery night dur­ing a fixed win­ter pe­riod.

AFP

Spec­ta­tors gather be­fore a Cal­cio Fiorentino match in Florence’s Pi­azza Santa Croce on Wed­nes­day, June 24.

AFP

A White Team player, left, is tack­led by two Green Team play­ers dur­ing their Cal­cio Fiorentino match in Florence’s Pi­azza Santa Croce on June 2.

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