In anticipation of the return of the Calcio Storico, TF spoke to Simone Calonaci, historic calciante for the Bianchi from 2000 to 2006, about what it's like to play the game, its recent history and what makes the Calcio Storico Fiorentino one of the greatest games in the world.
How did you start playing in the Calcio Storico?
When my dad took me to matches as a boy, I watched the Calcio Storico with wonder and fell in love with the game. It soon became my dream to play for the Bianchi, since I was born in San Frediano. Then I started to play soccer in the Serie C for a team in Campi Bisenzio, the Lanciotto Campi. In the meantime, I would go to see the Calcio Storico every year. Then at 33, I decided to try playing. I knew a few players on the Bianchi, so that's how I got to my first training session. I played my first game in 2000 with the Bianchi and it was a dream come true for me. It also gave me the opportunity to make many great friends.
Tell me about the game. What's the aim?
The main aim is to score. But how do you score? You score essentially by trying to take out the other team's players. The aim of most players is to pin their opponents down to the ground and keep them on the ground for the whole match or hurt them so much that they have to leave the field. It's not uncommon during games for players to get poked in the eyes, tear ligaments, sprain an ankle or get a shoulder bone knocked out of its socket. It is much easier to score if you have more men on the field than your rivals do. It gives the ‘strikers,' the position I played, the opportunity to score. Ninety percent of the time, the strongest team wins the match. It's physical strength and endurance that makes the difference.
What is the training like?
We train as any soccer team would, doing various kinds of exercises, but we also do exercises in wrestling. Then each session ends with a mock match. Clearly, the new guys must ‘pass the test' in the training sessions before they can play a real game, because if you are scared at training sessions then you'll never last in a match. The sessions are very difficult. If you are not good enough to play, there's a chance you'll stick your team with one less player during the match. So you have to be strong. To play, you have to be at your maximum, at 200 percent. In January, players start training twice a week for the Calcio Storico; then after the Scoppio del Carro at Easter, teams train three times a week.
Tell me about your first game.