Florentine calcio, ancestor of modern football?

A symbol of Florentine culture, Florentine calcio is a collective ball game dating from the Renaissance era. Disappearing in the middle of the 18th century, it has reappeared since the 1930s. This sport, known for its extreme harshness, has its origins in harpastum, a collective game played and much appreciated by the legionaries of Ancient Rome.

A sport combining football, rugby, and Greco-Roman wrestling

Florentine calcio is played on a rectangular sandy field divided into two identical halves by a white line. Two teams of twenty-seven players compete for around fifty minutes. Unlike football, there are no breaks or substitutions during the game. The twenty-seven players of each team or team are distributed as follows:

  • four datori indietro or goalkeepers;
  • three datori innanzi or defenders;
  • five sconciatori or midfielders;
  • fifteen innanzi or corridori or even attackers.

As in football, cages are located on each side of the field. The objective remains the same as in most ball sports, that is to say, to score the most goals by getting the ball into the opponent's cage, at any cost. If during a shot, the ball bounces off the post or misses, half a point is given to the opposing team. For each goal scored, the teams change sides of the field.

The particularity of Florentine calcio lies in its particular rules, closer to an arena fight than a ball game. Indeed, all moves are allowed to recover the ball from the opponent and score goals. Punches, kicks, fierce wrestling, all means are good to dominate the opponent, provided you do not attack from behind or attack a single opponent with two or more. Kicking in the face, as well as hitting an opponent who is already on the ground, is also prohibited. These rules, which give Florentine calcio the appearance of football and rugby combined with Greco-Roman wrestling, make it one of the most violent sports in the world. The matches quickly turn into epic battles where players, galvanized by the cries of their supporters, confront each other with their bare hands.

The tournament of the four Florentine teams

After almost two centuries of absence, Florentine calcio has returned to Florence since the 1930s, and a four-team tournament is organized every year in June. The tournament brings together the four historic districts of the city of Florence. It is played in two elimination matches and a final which takes place on the day of the patron saint of the city, in Piazza Santa Croce in the center of the city. Traditionally, the winning team of the tournament received a white Chianina calf, an ancient local breed. But today, a feast is just offered to the victors.

Although it is true that Florentine calcio no longer attracts as many crowds as in ancient times, it nonetheless remains a very popular sport in Florence which continues to arouse a lot of interest.

What ? You don't know HARPASTUM? Click here we have dedicated an article to it

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