Calcio Storico, officially known as Calcio Storico Fiorentino, or ‘historic football’ is an ancient form of football from the 16th century, originated from the ancient roman ‘harpastum’, and it is played in teams of 27, using both feet and hands. The game is played on a rectangular field covered in sand divided down the middle into two matching squares, with goal nets at each end and the matches last for 50 minutes.
No substitutions are allowed, even if there are injuries – which are very common. The ball is thrown into the centre of the pitch, and the teams descend on it in an effort to gain possession and kick it over a fence at the opposing team’s end of the field. Sucker-punches and kicks to the head are against the rules, but head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking are all ok, and while many fighting techniques (including martial arts) are allowed, it’s not ok for more than one player to attack a single opponent at once.
Even with all the rules in place, this is still a very dangerous sport. While there have been no deaths during the game in modern times, there have been numerous cases of players hospitalized, sometimes for months. City authorities banned the match for a year back in 2007 after a brawl which saw around 50 players taken to court. After that, new rules banned convicted criminals from taking part in the event.
Four teams take part in the Florentine Calcio Storico, each representing a different district of the city: Santa Croce (blue), Santa Maria Novella (red), Santo Spirito (white), and San Giovanni (green) and in 2014, the rules changed, so only people born in Florence or who have lived in the area for at least ten years can take part. The winning team used to take home a butchered calf, but nowadays they get a free ready-cooked dinner at a restaurant. There’s no official prize-giving or medal ceremony – the players play for glory and bragging rights.
If you are visiting Florence and want to witness this historic event, your only chance to watch a match is in June, when four local teams battle it out in Florence to be crowned the champions, but be aware that the whole city turns out to enjoy the spectacle, so, things will be very crowded. The happens in the late afternoon at around 5pm, so afterwards you can enjoy a lively atmosphere in Florentine bars and pubs. If you like Calcio Storico and other not too common sports around the world, you should sign up for a betting account via agent to find the best odds and limits on Asian bookmakers.