The fresh face of Fiorentina

Fan mentality evolves with roster

Alice Fischetti
January 10, 2018 - 11:25

Things are changing for Fiorentina. The season kicked off with a laundry list of new players, swapping the likes of Bernardeschi and Borja Valero for new purple shirts including Veretout, Théréau and Simeone. With the mish mosh of new faces, “Viola” fans faced the season with mixed spirits. And halfway through the season, the new squad hasn’t brought the new developments fans had hoped to see: the team continues to float between seventh and tenth place in the Serie A classification, a season no different than last year’s mediocrity.

 

Coach Stefano Pioli


Last summer, fans witnessed the media eruption of the “nuova fiorentina” with chatter set on what to expect from the just formed team led by new coach Stefano Pioli. Federico De Sinopoli, president of ATF (Fiorentina Fans Association), tells me the pre-season uproar was more of a media ploy than indication of real change. Though ACF Fiorentina played musical chairs with more athletes than usual—the majority of faces on the field signed this season—the new players are simply a symptom of Fiorentina’s shifting identity in recent years.

 

Though coverage debating Fiorentina’s future endures, the Fiorentina born and bred keep their thoughts elsewhere. Italy, like most European countries, lives soccer as an element woven into everyday life, a feature embedded in the intricate fabric of the country’s national identity. But in Florence, soccer plays a more identity-based role than any other Italian city: “There is a real symbiosis between the city and its soccer team … It’s really a question of identity,” De Sinopoli explains.

Federico Chiesa

 

Soccer is among the many wonders Florentines proudly call their own, citing the 16th- century version of the sport still played today: calcio storico. To this end, new Fiorentina shirts were introduced this season boasting the four colors of the calcio storico teams, which symbolize Florence’s four historic neighborhoods. The “boria del Fiorentino,” the arrogant reputation Florentines proudly wear on their sleeve, has a lot to do with how fans experience Fiorentina today. For them, ACF Fiorentina is none other than Florence itself.

 

Yet it’s the same Florentine boria that has caused an apparent shift in Fiorentina fan base spirit. Up until a few years ago, De Sinopoli tells me, “fans would head to the stadium regardless of the end result. In recent years … there were hopes of winning something; after {it didn’t happen} we started seeing a decline of fans in the stadium, and many have distanced themselves from the team.” As a Fiorentina expert who has hardly ever missed a game in the stands—home and away—De Sinopoli is quick to assure me that Fiorentina has always (and still today) boasts a huge following regardless of their lack of wins.

 

It’s true that the Fiorentina we see today starkly contrasts the team that formed the sturdy soccer spirit of the 1970s and beyond. As De Sinopoli affirms, Fiorentina fans need something to keep them proud. “While before you could bypass {the lack of victories} as people did in the 1970s—where Fiorentina rarely won but fans would say, ‘That’s OK because we have Antognoni’—today, {having a star player} doesn’t suffice.”

 

“Perhaps the last real player to serve this role for fans,” remembers De Sinopoli, “was Gabriel Batistuta,” a player that vaunted Fiorentina colors for nine years, winning the Coppa Italia (1995–96) and a Supercoppa Italiana (1996). The decline in support for the team seems to be less about the so-called “nuova Fiorentina” and more about Florentine pride: today’s team gives fans more uncertainty than bragging rights.

Jordan Veretout

 

When asked about the “new Fiorentina” chatter, De Sinopoli tells me, “The players that we lost last year, yes, they’re great players, but overall they’re not the athletes that have written Fiorentina history … Fans don’t feel very attached to these recent ones.” And it’s this lack of Antognonis and Batistutas that perhaps has fans “gripping” to the 20-year-old Chiesa, a player De Sinopoli considers too young to support the entire fan base.

 

Uncertain of what is to come, Fiorentina fans, it seems, choose to live in the moment rather than predict the end game of this “new squad,” though hopes that the team’s current standings might soar to at least sixth place have yet to dwindle. The team seems bound to finish close to last year’s eighth ranking, never placing above the seventh spot this season. But fans remain hopeful; perhaps the loss of Fiorentina superstar power is only paving the way for a team with the rigor of its past. For one, De Sinopoli noted an increase of foreigners in the stadium, sign of a new fan base forming in the ever-diversifying Florentine community.


Regardless, “it’s evident that there’s something truly special between the team and the city,” De Sinopoli concludes.

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