Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Calcio storico, a bizarre, violent and fascinating sport

I only recently discovered the ancient sport of calcio storico, also known as calcio fiorentino (historic or Florentine football), a bizarre combination of rugby and mixed martial arts. It is often regarded as the world's most brutal sport, and presents an annual spectacle on a par with Pamplona' s running of the bulls.
Popularized in Renaissance Florence, when apparently nobles, aristocrats and even popes played the game, calcio drifted out of popularity in the 17th century before being revived again the 20th. The official rules were drawn up in 1580, and a tournament is played each June between four teams from the various quarters of the city of Florence.
Each match is played on a sand pitch about 80m x 40m between two teams of 27 players, with no substitutions allowed even when injuries occur (which they do, with great regularity), and a game lasts 50 minutes with no break. The aim is to get the ball, by any means necessary into the opponent's goal, a narrow slit at each end of the pitch, although care must be taken when shooting because a miss causes a caccia or goal to be counted against the shooting team. In doing so, almost anything goes - punching, kicking, head-butting, choking, tripping, tackling, wrestling. Just about the only disallowed moves are kicks to the head and sucker punches, and it is prohibited for more than one player to attack an opponent.
The games take place in the main square of Florence, surrounded by much medieval pomp, ceremony and colour, and are a much-anticipated and well-attended part of the city's cultural calendar.

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