Calcio fiorentino (also known as calcio storico "historic football") is an early form of football that originated in 16th century Italy. Once widely played, the sport is thought to have originated in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. Here it became known as the giuoco del calcio fiorentino ("Florentine kick game") or simply calcio; which is now also the name for football in the Italian language. The game may have started as a revival of the Roman sport of harpastum.
Calcio was reserved for rich aristocrats who played every night between Epiphany and Lent. Even Popes, such as Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII were known to play the sport in Vatican City. The games were known to get violent as teams vied with each other to score goals. This game was probably played already in the 15th century, so much that some matches were organized on a completely frozen over Arno river in 1490. In a historically famous occasion, the city of Florence held a match on February 17, 1530 in defiance of the imperial troops sent by Charles V, as the city was under siege . In 1574 Henry III of France attended a game of "bridge fighting" - put on in his honor during a visit to Venice; the king is recorded as saying: "Too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game".
The official rules of calcio were published for the first time in 1580 by Giovanni de' Bardi, a Florentine count. The game is played on a field of sand with a narrow slit constituting the goal, running the width of each end. Each teams comprises 27 players who are allowed to use both feet and hands to pass and control the ball. Goals (or cacce) are scored by throwing the ball over into the netting at the end of the field. There is a main referee, six linesmen and a field master. Each match is played out for 50 minutes with the winner being the team with the most goals scored.
Interest in Calcio waned in the early 17th century. However in 1930 it was reorganized as a game in Kingdom of Italy. Today, three matches are played each year in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence in the 3rd week of June. A team from each quartiere of the city is represented:
- Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
- Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
- Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
- San Giovanni / Verdi (Greens)
After playing each other in two opening games, the two overall winners go into the final which occurs each year on June 24; this is San Giovanni (St. John)'s Day, the Patron Saint of Florence. The modern version of calcio allows tactics such as head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking but sucker punches and kicks to the head are banned. It is also prohibited from more than one player to attack an opponent. Any violation leads to being thrown out of the game.
- Halpern, J. Balls and Blood, Sports Illustrated. Vol 109, No. 4: August 4, 2008, p. 42.
- "A Point of View: Sporting spectacle on the piazza". BBC NEWS. 12 July 2013.
- Bardi, Cosimo. Discorso sopra il giuoco del calcio fiorentino del Puro Accademico Alterato. In Firenze : nella Stamperia de' Giunti, 1580
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Calcio in Costume.|
- http://www.expertfootball.com/history/ History of Soccer from ExpertFootball.com
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsRqSNSjy3E Video: Calcio Storico Fiorentino Mini-Documentary
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrCUu8jAYV0 Video: GEO Reportage "Florenz, Fussball bis aufs Blut" (German)
- http://www.puredesign.it/gallery2/main.php/v/calciostorico/ Photogallery: parade and match on 24 June 2008 (Italian)