The glorious history of Fiorentina and of soccer in Florence

Fiorentina, you are 90: remember that your history is that of soccer.

All respectable florentines have in their heart one single color and one single passion: purple and Fiorentina. Rooting for Florence’s team is a burden that every fan carries inside from childhood until old age. There are no compromises and no great joys. Nonetheless, it is a path crowned by pride and satisfactions; a mission against the powerful and against the uncontrolled power that other teams, higher placed than Fiorentina, exercise on the soccer business. It is a faith carried out from generation to generation where Artemio Franchi is the temple and the green rectangle the stage where its actors present themselves in a Shakespearean way. Pathos, pain, love, suffering and chills down the spine are the reasons that push a city and its people to support their team. For 90 years, every Sunday we meet together to experience pathos, where both connotations of the word are experienced: suffering and emotions.

The glorious history of Fiorentina and of soccer in Florence

Modern soccer, in Florence, was established in 1908, when some teams were playing at the “Cascine” the regional third category tournament. The event was so exciting that, on February 4th 1917 at the Prato del Quercione field at the Cascine, during the match between Libertas and Hesperia, the referee was “cazazottato” (punched). After the first war, rivalries started, Libertas had red jerseys and Club Sportivo had white ones. Since 1917, Libertas had its own field, first in Via Paisello and later a real stadium in Via Bellini. Club Sportivo had its own at the velodrome of the Cascine.

When fascism wanted to eliminate the cities’ soccer rivalries, it promoted in various cities the fusion of teams. Consequently, the two rivals were forced to unite in a single team with white and red colors under the guide of the federal, the marquis Luigi Ridolfi, who became president of the “Associazione Calcio Firenze” founded on 29th August 1926. It enrolled in the round First Division (a sort of B league). The team used to play in Via Bellini. The name soon became Associazione Calcio Fiorentina, incorporating also the team Itala. The new team entered the major league in the 1928-29 season, with another 7 teams chosen for sporting and political purposes. In 1929 they changed the color of the jersey to purple and it moved back to the B league. In 1931 Fiorentina rose back to the A league with an Austrian coach, Hermann Felsner and champions such as the Uruguayan Pedro Petrone and the national Alfredo Pitto and a new stadium,  built by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi, characterized by its futuristic Tower of Maratona.,

Fiorentina was third in 1935 and in the quarterfinals of the European Cup, the same year. Later it was in the semifinals of the Italian Cup in 1936. Fiorentina experienced a crisis in 1937-38, retreating to the B league, but it immediately went back to the A league a year later and, in 1939, Fiorentina won its first trophy, the Italian Cup. Trained by Giuseppe Galluzzi, with players like the goalkeeper Griffanti, Ellena, Bigogno, Romeo Menti, the young Valcareggi, and the more experienced Degano, Viola (purple – the color of Fiorentina’s jerseys by which they are often identified) dominated for a long time the 1941-42 war championship, using the new tactics of the system, but started losing in the return games.

After the war, Fiorentina was still amongst the top seven teams, and was consecrated in the 1955-56 season. Chaired by Enrico Befani, coached by Fulvio Bernardini, with a young defense around the more experienced captain Francesco Rosetta. At the attack there was the acrobatic Brazilian Julinho and Argentinian native Montuori. Then, Fiorentina lost only one game, the last day, and won a formidable league, and its players formed by 10/11 the Italian national team. Finalist in the Champions League, second in the national championship for three consecutive years, always on the top, Fiorentina won the Italian Cup and the Cup of Cups in 1961, then again the Italian Cup in 1966 and again in 1968-69. Coached by “Petisso” Pesaola, with a team of young people, as Brizi, Ferrante, Esposito, Merlo, Chiarugi, around the charismatic “Picchio” (woodkeeper) De Sisti, with the brilliant Brazilian Amarildo “vice Pelé”, Fiorentina, whose president was Baglini, beat outside home, on the penultime day, Juventus with the goals by “Cavallo Pazzo” (crazy horse) Chiarugi and Maraschi. Fiorentina then won the championship. It won the Italian Cup again in 1975, mainly  thanks to the extraordinary game of the new leader, Giancarlo Antognoni, and came second in the league in 1982, after a head to head with Juventus ended the last day of the season. Fiorentina was playing in Cagliari, it only needed a draw, the game closed at 0-0, but a goal by Graziani, which was annulled, called for a scandal. Juventus was in Catanzaro and a missed penalty against them in the face of another assigned to them for a similar foul, resulting in the title being assigned to the Turinese team. It was then that the saying “Better seconds than thiefs” and the rivarly between the two teams grew in a staggering way. Afterwards, Fiorentina had alternate phases. A UEFA final in 1990 and the crisis in 1992 – 1993, with demotion to the B league from which the Cecchi Gori cycle started. With the splendor of the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup in 1996 and another Italian Cup in 2001, but with a nefarious ending that led to the disastrous financial bankruptcy in 2002. The team started again from the C2 league. It was promoted to the B league for sporting merit and back to being called Fiorentina. At that point the Della Valle era started, allowing the team to regain its stature, despite its unfortunate connection with the so-called Calciopoli in 2006, by winning several times the participation in European cups.

The Collective “Viola” memories

Next to its pragmatic history, runs a river ‘di sguardi, di ricordi, di cose capite troppo tardi,di sottotitoli per ”nontroppobrillanti”,di magici istanti’ (cit. Giorgio Canali, Tutti gli uomini) – of glances, of memories, of things understood too late, of subtitles for the “nottoosmart”, of magical moments (Giorgio Canali, All the men) –. There are names that in the sky over Florence befall like lightning, and are able to make the legs shake to all Fiorentina fans. These are the names of the champions who passed through Florence and have left their mark in the hearts of Viola’s fans. We start from the most known, the only number 10, the boy who used to play looking at the stars, Giancarlo Antognoni who has worn the Fiorentina jersey from 1972 until 1987. With a clean face and flowing hair ‘Antonio’ has been the symbol of Fiorentina for a long time, with his perfect geometries and enchanted feet. The lion king, Gabriel Omar Batistuta, the bomber par excellence, the one who inspired a whole generation of soccer players and who brought the Viola magic at the top of the temple of soccer, Wembley’s stadium, where he scored the decisive goal against Arsenal in 1999. The Portuguese Manuel Rui Costa, who, with the jersey number 10, brought to Florence the Italian Cup in 2001, which was the last trophy to arrive to Florence. In the more recent history some champions deserve mentioning. The first mention is for the bomber who allowed the rise back to the league, the bricklayer, Cristian Riganò, a humble attacker with a great sense of the goal. Then, we have, Luca Toni, the bomber from Pavullo, who, in one year, won the golden shoe as the best closer in Europe. Then we move to Adrian Mutu, a phenomenon with a fiery personality and the bows under the “Fiesole” to arrive to Giuseppe Rossi, who had more injuries than played matches in Florence, but is still greatly remembered for his splendid triplet against the hated Juventus in October 2013.

For some fans, rooting Fiorentina does not have apparent health benefits or give an opportunity to relax and rejoice every Sunday. For some fans, rooting Fiorentina is a continuous rise towards unknown peeks, where they are told there is the pleasure of raising a trophy and to being able to say “We are the champions! To your face!” Most likely they are right, but a whole city does not give its identity up for a victory that does not come. Fiorentina is the team of the most beautiful city in the world. The sky, with its purple sunset, over the Ponte Vecchio, when Fiorentina has won the Sunday match, is a victory that can never be equaled.

Now, you are 90 years old, Fiorentina, you have grown and you are more beautiful than ever and the love that your city has for you is as alive now as it was in the beginning.

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