In my household we mostly talk about only a few things: food, politics, religion, and soccer. More often than not, soccer is the source of our more lively dinner time ‘discussions’ as we call them. And with the UEFA Champions League now to the final four, the topic of soccer absolutely dominates our family discussions as well as tv programming. And with Inter moving on to the final four as the only Italian team and Fiorentina facing the defending Serie A champions this Saturday, it’s no surprise that our family’s conversation cover Italian soccer, in specific, these two teams.
The English have continuously claimed that they are the initiators of the great game. But like all great things in this world, it’s roots can be found in Tuscany. Specifically, Florence.
Calcio (Kal-ch0) Storico or Calcio Fiorentino was an early form of the beautiful game in the 16th century. It is considered a forerunner for what we, in the States, call Soccer (Football or Futbol to the rest most of the world), although the game resembles more a combination of rugby than soccer.
The game was originally played by the most important Florentine nobles and aristocrats as a form of amusement and distraction during the troubling times found around Europe in the middle ages.
Perhaps the most important game was played on February 17th 1530, during the siege of Florence (in which Imperial Spain surrounded the city from October 1529 until August 1530). The Florentines decided to continue on with the game, despite the situation, and perhaps in contempt of their enemies.
The game was and is still played in the Piazza of Santa Croce. Originally the teams played every night between Epiphany and Lent. Today, three matches are played each year in Piazza Santa Croce between the four quartiere (quarters) of the city in what is known as the Tournament of St. John (patron saint of the city). Each quartiere sports a team, with the top two teams playing in the third (final) game.
The piazza is converted into a stadium, covered in sand, with bleachers set all around. Goals or cacce are scored when a team throws the ball into the opposing team’s net, which lines the width of the field on each end. There is a main referee, six linesmen and a field master. The rules? I don’t really think there are rules. Teams field 27 players and it’s legal to headbutt, choke, elbow, or punch your opponents (whether the balls is nearby or not). Using a large white feather, referees attempt to keep control and call ‘fouls’ when players use illegal kicks to the head or ‘sucker punches’
I love it.
The Teams: Santa Croce Azzurri (Blues), Santa Maria Novella Rossi (Reds), Santo Spirito Bianchi (Whites), San Giovanni Verdi (Greens)
Come late June – I plan to be in Florence to witness Calcio Storico. Perhaps the fact that I was born on the 17th of February is the reason I am so passionate about soccer, as a player and as a coach.
Now it’s time for me to go play some calcio and then, as always, travel on.