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Calcio Storico (Historic Football)

No rules, only one ball and two narrow slits where to throw it in: it's the "calcio storico fiorentino", forerunner of the modern soccer.

2014 | 5 - 10 | Documentary | Football | Observational | Spain

Blood, dust and broken bones. Every year, between the second and the third week of June, four teams face off in the arena of La Santa Croce in Florence and fight for the victory. There are no rules, only one ball drenched in sweat and two narrow slits, the goals, where to slip it in. It is the calcio storico fiorentino, forerunner of the modern soccer. This impressive shortdoc, directed by photojournalists David Ramos and David Airob for Narratively, a New York-based multimedia agency specializing on narrating the best “untold stories” from the four corners of the earth, tells us about the animal side of this epic game which, through the force of athletic movement and emotion of the rivalry, unleashes strong passions and  primitive furies in visceral forms of adhesion.

Already practised by the ancient Greeks as sferomachia, and later adopted by the Romans under the name of harpastum, it’s a long story that leads to the calcio fiorentino founded in 1580 by Florence Count Giovanni de’ Bardi – who also wrote the rules – and practiced in the past also by noble aristocrats and popes. Given its brutality, the game was banned for 200 years, only to be reborn in 1930 with new rules. Today’s teams – representing the districts of Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito and San Giovanni – consist of 27 players, or “calcianti”, that can fight individually or in groups. Except kicks to the head, every means is legitimate for scoring the so-called “caccia” (“hunt”), obtainable by bringing the ball, with feet or hands makes no difference, to the bottom of the field. There is a referee, a master of the field, and six linesmen, who intervene only in the case of blatant misconduct, to report an out, and to validate a signature. A game lasts 50 minutes, and the winning team is the one that scores the most points. The two winning teams will then go into the final which takes place every year on June 24th, the day of the patron saint of Florence, San Giovanni. The winning team is honored with a cow.

This work –  beautifully edited by Jose Bautista, founder of Kansei Sound, who also curated the sound and music – tells the preparatory phase of the teams, focusing on a few characters, then moves on showing us a few dramatic moments of the match. The event is experienced by the participants mainly as a challenge with themselves, against their own fears, as a kind of rite which trains to life, where to measure its own value. And of course, the same feelings are reflected on the public. The arena-stadium attracts every year a large number of people and becomes the place where, through the catharsis of victory or the wound of the defeat, the public pours his desire for gratified or frustrated greatness, which is renewed in every edition.

Modern soccer is obviously a “secular” version of the calcio storico, purified of its most violent elements, but still triggering atavic emotions difficult to appease. This is basically the secret of its attractiveness. If Pier Paolo Pasolini was right in saying that: “Football is the last sacred representation of our time. A rite at the bottom, even if it’s escapism” it’s also true that imaging football as a mere show of agonistic skills, hence adhering to a pacified vision of the sport, is correct in form, but betrays the substance, being a game whose characteristics have made it, virtually anywhere, an event particularly suited to catalyze the most intense feelings of the community – which then, of course, each culture expresses according to its degree of civilization.

Website: http://www.calciostoricofiorentino.it

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder, creative director, curator @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great booze. My motto is, your motto.

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