Calcio Storico, Florence

Calcio Storico, Florence

Football with a bit of biff

CALCIO STORICO: Firenze, Feast of San Giovanni Battista

Every year the Santa Croce Piazza is filled with sand and surrounded by temporary stands as it hosts three traditional soccer games, two qualifying semi finals, followed by a final between the two victorious teams. This grand final is held on 24 June to celebrate the Feast of San Giovanni, with four squads of twenty seven men, each wearing medieval clothing, going into battle like warriors of old. The four squads are formed from the four historic quarters of Firenze: Santo Spirito (whites), Santa Croce (blues), Santa Maria Nouvella (reds) and San Giovanni (greens). The finalists in 2011 were Santo Spirito and Santa Croce, with the blues gaining a thrilling victory by the narrowest of margins.

Calcio Storico is a wonderfully weird combination of wrestling and football, using a soccer ball which is thrown rather than kicked and run towards goal by the sprinters in the team, while the big men wrestle each other on the ground. All 27 men from both teams are on the field at the one time for 50 minutes without a break, and they use fair means and foul to score, giving supporters an amazing spectacle, although there is so much going on at any one time on the 40 x 20 metre field that it’s difficult to know where to look, especially as the ball is not always clearly visible! It is not uncommon for several players to be stretchered off the field during the game, as this is a very serious battle on the feast of the city’s patron saint and locals are of course very passionate about their teams.

This post is written by Krista Bell.

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