POV

A Real Man’s Soccer (Calcio Storico Fiorentino)

The toughest game on earth. A gruesome and bloody, no-holds-barred sport straight from the Middle Ages.

Images by Simone Perolari Video by David Battistella Text by CBK
©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

It happens each year in, of all places, the square in front of the Santa Croce Basilica in Florence, during the month of June.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

Invented by the Greeks and adopted up by the Romans, it became a Florentine affair in the beginning of the fifth century. It was named ‘Calcio’, which means ‘Kick’ in Italian; the ancestor of the modern sport of soccer.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

The game is preceded by lavish renaissance costume parades representing the four districts of Florence involved in the competition: San Giovanni, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and Santo Spirito.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

Each team consists of twenty-seven men. Local police have had to intervene in recent years, banning convicted criminals and players that were deemed excessively violent.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

The only real rule is ‘no kicks to the head’. Everything else goes. Ten players of each team are considered brawlers, and basically engage each other in bloody combat with little regard for where the ball is. Some of the other players have backgrounds in rugby, they are tasked with carrying the ball through the opponent’s defense (good luck). There are also a few soccer players for tactical kicking.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

Broken bones and noses, cuts requiring stitches and many unconcious people on the field are the norm, as there are no substitutions. The only prize for the winning team is a free dinner after the game and a slaughtered cow. There is no other reward, nor any cash prize. Sheer passion and a lot of madness drive this tradition.

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

©Simone Perolari

For live action check out this great video by David Battistella

 

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