On February 17, 1530, the troops of Charles V, an ally of the Roman Papal States and of Pope Clement VII (the last Medici), planted themselves on the outskirts of Florence to besiege it. The city, aware of the inevitable defeat, then decided to send them an emotional missile by continuing the Calcio Storico match that was being played in Piazza de la Santa Croce at the time. When the imperial army began to bombard them with their artillery, the players and the public went about their business as if nothing had happened. No one was going to take that moment away from them. Almost 500 years later, the flags of the city’s neighborhoods that received the invader that day continue to wave around the curve of the Antoni Franchi, Fiorentina’s stadium. La Fiore, like then, is more than ever an irreducible team under the premise of victory or death that guides its ascending course in Serie A.
The Tuscans were until this weekend (they drew against Sassuolo) the only formation in the major European championships that had not tied a single game. Their advance to the top of Serie A -today they are tied for sixth on points with Roma- was counted through ten wins and seven losses. Win or die. The answer lay with coach Vincenzo Italiano, a bet by US president Rocco Commiso (he replaced Diego Della Valle, owner of Tod’s), who has turned the team into a fabulous inventory of attacks on the rival that, at times, has also cost him absurd points in the last minutes. But coach Viola is a formidable strategist who has allowed the team to play unapologetically against all rivals. In part, thanks also to the top scorer of the championship, Dusan Vlahovic (16 goals).
The popular roots of Fiorentina go far beyond that link with the historical soccerthe sport that for many was the germ of today’s football (although the idea upsets the British). The club is the only one in the city and every Sunday the stadium receives around 30,000 spectators, 10% of the population of Florence. There is the mayor in each party, who knows the importance of the team for the mood of the citizens. Because many times the players are remembered here more for their love of the shirt than for the results. Angelo di Livio, for example, the flag of Juventus, signed for the mythical Fiorentina of Trapattoni, Battitusta, Rui Costa or Edmundo (the one with that shirt with Nintendo advertising that was about to win a scudetto in the 1999-2000 season) . But he went down to C2 hell when the team went bankrupt. He did not abandon them until they returned to Serie A.
The supporters Viola pays for the effort, but it is visceral and passionate. When Roberto Baggio, another of his idols, signed for Juventus, there were riots for several days in the city. And that itself was a drama turned into an insurrection of the people in front of the Florentine headquarters. They adored Baggio, the humanity and complexity of him. They loved the idiosyncrasy of this melancholic and cool character who brought pride back to the viola. For many years they did not forgive him. Baggio, instead of rebelling, understood this and refused to take a penalty in the first duel with the Vecchia Signora.
Vlahovic is the ultimate love-hate postcard for viola idols. Discovered when he was playing for Partizan Belgrade by Pantaleo Corvino, the great technical director of Fiore, he arrived at the club at the same age as Battistuta and is today the greatest talent since that time. He has it all and every ball he touches is half a goal. “Whoever signs him will have the guaranteed shield”, wrote Mario Sconcerti this week in the Corriere della Sera. Strong, tall (1.90m, he was going for a basketball player) and fast. La Fiore needs you. And Commiso offered him a great contract, the best in the team. But the kid has stood up and does not want to renew a bond that ends in 2023. Half of Europe besieges his agent, as the troops of Carlos V did that day in 1530. But the club has decided that as long as they have him on the field, the ball has to keep rolling.
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