By: Jonny Jessup – Staff Writer
Staff writer Jonny Jessup is studying abroad this semester in Italy. This is his account of attending an Italian professional soccer match in Florence.
It’s game day in Florence, Italy. Shop owners are shutting their doors a little earlier. Restaurants prepare for a wave of people arriving to watch their TVs. Men, women, children and even dogs walk the streets sporting purple Fiorentina football club jerseys.
On any other day it’s the Florence Cathedral that you would find most Fiorentini people gathering around. However, today it’s the Stadio Artemio Franchi that is perhaps the city’s most popular landmark. Chants and songs echo through the streets as supporters begin to surround the stadium. Numerous police are on standby, as the visiting team, Tottenham Hotspur, is known for having a particularly wild fan base.
Known as “hooligans,” the boisterous bunch of London supporters arrived in Florence a week early. Many hooligans would frequent the pubs in town, and when fueled by alcohol, start yelling obscenities at Fiorentina supporters well into the night. Tempers would only continue to rise between the fan bases throughout the week. All the insults and jeers would boil over in one grand spectacle of soccer, or as the Italians call it “calcio”.
A sea of purple stretched across the Stadio Artemio Franchi, as Fiorentina supporters exchanged lively chants from one end to the other. With purple team scarves raised above their heads, Fiorentina supporters belted out a catchy tune of “Oh Fiorentina” with incredible gusto. Now was time to introduce the hometown team these fans so adamantly follow.
The announcer began to go down the roster and yell out the first name of the player. Fiorentina supporters would then roar back the player’s last name.
“ M a n u e l … . . P a s q u a l ! ” “Davide…..Astori!”
Finally, with electricity surging through the crowd, the match was underway. Tottenham scored first, giving the tightly packed away section plenty to cheer about. However, Fiorentina struck right back, knotting the game at one apiece and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Numerous huge flags were hoisted into the sky and waved back and forth as the cheers filled the stadium.
A couple of moments later, smoke was coming out of the section across the field. At first glance the smoke billowing around the stadium appeared to be a fire inside the crowd. But rather, huge flares had been set off by the supporters.. First three, then four, then five bright red lights illuminated the fans and created a thick trail of smoke that rose up and out of the stadium along with the songs sung by the Fiorentini.
At halftime, Italian fans helped themselves to a hot dog and a beer, just like any Americans would at a sports game. They even had vendors walking through the stadium selling cracker jacks and peanuts. It seems the recipe for sporting event snacks is a universal one.
The contest would eventually end in a 1-1 tie. Doing everything possible to prevent any form of confrontation, a voice came over the loudspeaker asking all Tottenham fans to please wait until the other fans had exited the stadium before they themselves do.
Being swept out of the stadium and back into the bustling streets, the spirit of the match was still alive. Songs were sung and a purple canvas of jerseys was seen walking to restaurants and bars, eager to keep the good times rolling.
Whether it be baseball, basketball, football, or calcio, the emotion that comes along with sports is truly alive all over the world. Sporting events give us one of the best opportunities to show our hometown pride, be it wearing our jersey… or maybe setting off a couple flares.
Photo: Jessup Soccer Photo Caption: The raucous scene at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, Italy, home of soccer club ACF Fiorentina, is representative of Italy’s passion for soccer and sports in general. Photo by Jonny Jessup.