Centuries of sporting tradition on display in Florence in John’s name
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.
Spectators gather before a Calcio Fiorentino match in Florence’s Piazza Santa Croce on Wednesday, June 24.
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.