Riot police were called into break up a 27 vs. 27 game of an ancient Italian sport that blends football, rugby and wrestling after a player punched a referee in the face in Florence.
The semi final between La Santa Croce Azzurri and Santo Spirito Bianchi was suspended after 15 minutes when violence erupted on the field of play. The player who punched the referee refused to leave the pitch, sparking a 40-man brawl.
Thousands were in attendance to watch the Calcio Storico Fiorentino – which translated to “Historic Florentine Football” – and dates way back to the 16th century.
The semi-final was held on Sunday with four teams competing. Nearly every player left the scene covered in blood and mud. The final was set for June 24, though it’s unclear if the game will continue as scheduled. June 24 is San Giovanni (St. John)’s Day, the Patron Saint of Florence.
The game, which is the origin for the modern Italian word for football, “calcio,” features 27 players on each team attempting to put a ball into the net using hands, feet or elbows on the ball and one another. The contest allows for head-butting, punching, elbowing and chocking, though head kicks are not allowed and will result in ejection.
Calcio Storico Fiorentino
Calcio fiorentino (also known as calcio storico “historic football”) is an early form of football that originated in 16th-century Italy. Once widely played, the sport is thought to have originated in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. Here it became known as the giuoco del calcio fiorentino (“Florentine kick game”) or simply calcio; which is now also the name for association football in the Italian language. The game may have started as a revival of the Roman sport of harpastum.