When it comes to Italian sport, you instantly think of their legendary footballers.
The names Paolo Maldini, Gigi Buffon and Francesco Totti are all etched in Italian folklore, but there’s another collection of heroes that play an entirely different sport to the one we know as “the beautiful game”.
If you were to assign it a nickname, you’d be more tempted to think of words like ‘brutal’, ‘barbaric’ and ‘violent’ to describe the scenes you’ll see in a game of Calcio Storico.
If you’re someone with an interest in Italian football, you’ll know that ‘Calcio’ translates as ‘football’ in English, so you may be thinking: “well, it must be similar to watching Serie A, right?”
Wrong. Very wrong.
Calcio Storico dates back to the 16th century, and originated in the Italian mining city of Florence (home to Fiorentina). I’ll try and explain the rules, which shouldn’t take long because there pretty much aren’t any.
Games are 50 minutes long and played on a field that is twice as long as it is wide. Each team has 27 players (just about enough for Chelsea to field their fleet of loan players), made up of four goalkeepers, three full-backs, five half-backs and 15 forwards (I’d like to see Jose Mourinho draw a game with 15 forwards on the field).
Once the game starts, a ball is thrown into the middle of the field and an absolutely massive fight starts between all 30 of the forwards. It’s then basically a race to incapacitate as many opponents as possible, and then when one team has a distinct numbers advantage, the rest of the team will make a move for the ball and head towards the opposing goal.
Punching, kicking, headbutting, elbowing and choking are all permitted and no gloves or protection are used during the contest. The only things currently banned are ‘sucker punches’ on an unsuspecting opponent, and kicks to the head. Numerous deaths have been recorded over the years.
(In case that didn’t sound crazy enough, in the early days they used to release BULLS into the game to create confusion and speed the game along. Imagine fighting an 18 stone man and a f*cking bull comes charging towards you.)
Getting it past the four goalies might be tough, but each shot has to be accurate, because any missed shot that goes over the net results in half a ‘cacce’ which translates as ‘goal’.
This barbaric spectacle continues for 50 minutes, and at the end whoever has the most goals is declared the winner. The victors used to receive a cow in celebration in the old days, but now every player from the winning side gets a free dinner. How lovely.
Each summer, there’s three games that take place in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, and one team from each ‘quartiere’ (a type of historic neighbourhood) is represented. There’s the Blues of Santa Croce, the Whites of Santo Spirito, the Reds of Santa Maria Novella, and the Greens of San Giovanni.
The four teams play each other, with the two winners going on to face each other in one final slugfest to determine the winning team.
Now I’ve whetted your appetite on what will undoubtedly become your new favourite sport (at least to watch if not play), here’s a video summing up just what life is like through the eyes of a Calcio Storico player in the modern day.
Big thanks to the guys at Copa90 for the footage
One thing you might notice from watching the video is that despite sounding (and with good reason) like a horrific bloody slugfest with no rules, the underlying message of modern day Calcio Storico is about being proud of your region.
Each member will happily fight for his region, showing the true emotion that goes into this one-of-a-kind sport.
I’m not entirely sure how Calcio Storico eventually evolved into football in Italy, but Fiorentina are incredibly proud of their roots, as they’ve shown this season with the release of no less than FOUR away shirts.
The shirts will be rotated throughout the season and there’s one for each historic neighbourhood, as you can see in the picture below.
Don’t worry, the players won’t be wearing those shorts, they’re the traditional attire of Storico players, so you won’t tune in to see the likes of Federico Bernardeschi rocking those bad boys in Serie A next season.
So if you happen to be in Florence next June, you might want to stick around to try and take in a game of Calcio Storico, but just don’t get too close unless you want an angry Italian trying to take your head off.