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Calcio Fiorentino: It Means Awesome Ball

Balls And Blood

Without even hearing any arguments, I'm prepared to make this the Official Sport of Uncommon Sportsman. Gentlemen, the setting:

It's a blistering summer day in Piazza Santa Croce, an ancient square in Florence, Italy, fringed by a 14th-century church and a towering marble statue of Dante Alighieri. Usually a gathering place for churchgoers and reverential tourists, today the piazza is a setting for battle. Two teams of muscular, tattooed, bare-chested men are engaged in hand-to-hand combat over a ball, though with all the bodies flying, it's often impossible to say where it is.


Described as a "Ramboesque" version of soccer and a blend of soccer, rugby, and mixed martial arts, calcio fiorentino translates roughly to "Florentine Ball." I always thought Florence was kind of a feminine name but really, now I think it just translates to "Awesome." Its origins date back to the 16th century where it was played by Italian rich folk, like Popes Clement VII, Leo XI, and Urban VII, but was then discontinued for over 9000 days. Luckily, it was revived again in 1930 around the time Europe was a beacon of sunshine and light, with rainbows coming out of their rears.

Rules? Oh yeah, there's a couple rules. In a four team tournament, two 27-man teams square off on a 100 by 50 meter sand pit. Grass is for sissies. Goals are the width of each end zone. Nets are for sissies who like ties. Fifty minutes of play. It's enough time for Sam Waterston to prosecute criminals as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy on Law & Order, if he DVRs through the commercials, it's enough time for anybody to do anything. No timeouts, no substitutions. Just like Italian Hold'em. Goals are worth one point, with failed scoring attempts resulting in half a point rewarded to the defending team. Like I said, no kissing your sister!

There's a couple things you can't do. No sucker punching, no kicking in the head. New rule changes for this year include no convicted criminals are allowed to play, as well as anyone who has been "deemed too violent" in previous years. What that means, I am not sure. I think it means no disemboweling your opponents with a rusty shiv. This could also just be political maneuvering, as team verdi lost twenty players to this new rule. Conspirazione!

After much festivity, the game is started. A ref throws the ball into the air, and it lands somewhere, but nobody cares. They'll get it later. It's game time.


You know, this picture really doesn't do it justice. YouTube!

I don't know if any goals were even scored during that video. You know, with the sand, it kinda looks like OTL.

A better look at this year's calcio fiorentino, and the inspiration for this piece, is available in this lovely piece by Jake Halpern.