In Florence, only one sport reigns supreme: calcio, or football, as our English cousins call it. Calcio is not to be confused in any way with ‘football Americano’, but take note of the similarity in the reverence with which both are treated by their fans.
One Sunday, some girlfriends and I headed to an exciting afternoon soccer game at lo stadio, the beautiful Franchi stadium that belongs to local soccer team, la Fiorentina, or la Viola. Interestingly, the team’s purple is just like the school colors of our university in the States, so we felt right at home donning our purple garb for the game.
As we made our way around the large complex, we could hear the players’ names being announced, and I tried to listen for the famous Adrian Mutu, or Alberto Gilardino, my house-sister’s favorite player. Just two years ago, when her mini-soccer league was invited to stand on the field during the 15-minute intervallo (half-time) and take pictures with the players, she stood right next to Gilardino. When she heard I was going to the game but didn’t have any proper Viola sportswear, she gave me her Fiorentina scarf so I could be a true fan. Of course, I was also instructed to give my best to ‘Alberto’!
During the first half, I sized up the stadium. Although the shape appears to be an oval, it was designed to be a ‘D’ for Duce-better known as Mussolini. There are four different fan sections: Curva Fiesole, populated by the impazziti (crazed) fans who stand and call out Fiorentina chants throughout the game; Curva Ferrovia, a more tame version of the Curva Fiesole; the Maratona, our lovely section where the fans remain seated; and the Tribuna, the V.I.P. section.
In between our section and the Curva Ferrovia was a caged section, called the gabbiotto, for the fans of the opposing team. What I didn’t realize at first was that the fans are actually locked into this space because of the incredible violence that often results at soccer matches. The gabbiotto is the only place the opposing team’s fans can sit. If there are too many fans and not enough seats, they are out of luck. Towards the end of the game, the announcer reminded everyone that the doors to the gabbiotto would not be opened until one full hour after the game, when all of the Fiorentina fans would be safely out of the stadium. Only then could the opposing team’s fans leave in peace! Mamma mia! Even in our relatively calm section, I heard so many parolacce (curse words) flying left and right. I got a great vocabulary lesson-one I’d never have in class!
The true action didn’t start until the end of the second half (apparently, both teams were playing unusually poorly). But the famous Mutu didn’t let his Fiorentina fans leave without seeing at least one exciting feat. As the players eased the ball down the field with their agile tricks, Mutu got the ball and made the goal to put Fiorentina ahead 1-0. In my excitement, I found myself on my feet with the surrounding home-team fans, hooting and hollering ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Forza Viola!’ just like a soccer regular.
Overall, it was a great day and another interesting Italian learning experience. It’s a good thing that they don’t put foreigners in with the opposing team’s fans or else my first soccer experience might not have been so pretty. But then again, we’ve been here long enough to know how and when to join in with the Italians. Forza Viola!