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Calcio storico fiorentino means "historic Florentine soccer." It is a wonderfully brutal reenactment of an early version of soccer. It is held annually in the historic piazzas of Florence, Italy. The four quarters of the city hold a tournament to win the palio, or prize, which is an ox.

Each quarter's team is referred to by the name of the quarter of the city, as well as by their colors.

  • Santa Croce / azzurro (blue)
  • Santa Maria Novella / rosso (red)
  • Santo Spirito / biancho (white)
  • San Giovanni / verde (green)
Often, the cheers during a match directed from one quarter to another are unabashedly obscene, such as one chanted to the Santa Croce squad thus:
Azzurro, azzurro, va fa'n culo!
(Blue, blue, go fuck yourself in the anus)
Or this one towards the poor "greens" of San Giovanni:
San Giovani, Giovani, figli di puttane!
(San Giovanni, Giovani, sons of whores!)
Originally played as a post Lenten celebration in the 1500's, calcio storico fell into disuse with a final match played in 1739. Under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, calcio storico was revived almost 200 years later in 1930 as a glorification of Italian culture.

Each squad consists of 27 players. The goal stretches the width of the field at each end, with points scored thus:

  • Ball in goal = 2 points for scoring team
  • Ball over goal = 1/2 point for opposing team
There are no other discernible rules. Unlike modern soccer, there are no restrictions concerning parts of the body that may be used to strike the ball. Likened to a combination of wrestling, rugby, and soccer, calcio storico when played looks like a mass riot.

The game is approximately 50 minutes in duration. The referee carries a sword and needs it. Typically, the only reason fist fights on the field cease is because the referee throws the ball high into the air thus presenting an opportunity to score for the greater glory of the quartiere; much scrambling, including thrown elbows, fists, and knees, ensues.

Calcio storico fiorentino is a mix of brutality and beauty. A parade of the nobles and officials of Florence, all wearing medieval costume, precedes the event. Many of those marching are the direct descendents of the Medici and other noble Florentine families of the city's past. The players complete the pageantry by competing in short pantaloons and otherwise authentic costume.

The match I observed in the late 1980's was played beneath the stars and the stern gaze of the statue of Dante Alighieri in Piazza Santa Croce. The contest was between what we were told were the two poorest quarters of the city, the "Blues" of Santa Croce and the "Greens" of San Giovanni. I confess not knowing who won, but it was obvious by the genuine tears of anguish being shed by the losing fans that the contest was taken seriously by the locals.

A similar, and better known celebration is the Palio di Siena wherein the various districts of Siena, Italy, compete in a brutal horse race. The Palio di Siena is the oldest of such celebrations in Italy and is often referred to merely by the single word, palio.

Information for this submission came from personal memories, as well as the Italian language web site for calcio storico fiorentino at

http://www.globeit.it/caf/

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