This Barbaric Version of Soccer Is the Original Extreme Sport

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Florence, Italy, is largely regarded as the cradle of the Renaissance. And while the city is best known for its artistic contributions to the world, few are aware that it is also the birthplace of soccer. However, the soccer of 15th-century Florence was rather barbaric in nature. They called it calcio storico, and despite the bloodshed it incurs, locals still play it to this day.

The Romans originally invented a sport they referred to as harpastum to keep their warriors in shape. Then men in Florence revived the game in 59 B.C. and eventually started calling it calcio, a word meaning “to kick” in Italian. The premise of calcio storico is somewhat similar to modern-day soccer. The men compete on a square-shaped field, running around in an attempt to throw the ball into the designated goals. The rules, however, are a different story. The 27 players on each team are free to use Greco-Roman combat moves, tackle opponents rugby-style and even box one another on the field. None of these acts are considered fouls.

Vocativ took a trip to Florence to speak to a few men who are actively involved in calcio storico. As the city is divided into four neighborhoods, each quarter has its own representative team in the league. “It’s a great honor when you show up in the square and there are more than 7,000 fans watching,” says Simone Brogliardi, a player for the blue team. “You feel like a gladiator entering the arena and ready to fight.”

But the honor does not come without a price. In fact, Alessandro “Ciara” Franceschi, the coach for the red team, says the game is brutal for players. “Violence is an inherent part of this game,” he says. “It’s really a war game; out of 27 teammates, at least 10 or 15 are going to come out injured.”

Franceschi has seen players hide their injuries—broken ribs and hands—to finish a match. Because calcio storico is the most ancient tradition of Florence with a history of more than 2,000 years, players risk it all for the sake of honor.

“Calcianti are athletes, strong athletes, courageous athletes, because the game is very masculine, very tough,” explains Luciano Artusi, director of calcio storico. “It evokes the meeting points of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: toughness, chivalry and willingness to proudly demonstrate that you belong to the city of Florence.”

After the match, the winning team is treated to a simple banquet in their neighborhood. They do not get paid for their participation in the bloodsport.

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49 COMMENTS

  1. This is not the origin of football at all! This is just brawling with a ball. The English made, codified, and exported modern football around the world. Founding many of the world's clubs. All countries and cultures had a ball game but only the English made modern football. If not, why didn't calcio Florence become the world sport of football, with clubs set up all around Europe and then the world? Because it isn't football or soccer, just an excuse for a punch up. Yes there are such traditions in some English towns too, I guess all around Europe, where a ball is tried to be carried around town and people have brutal fights to stop the other side.

  2. This is NOT soccer, for fucks sakes, this is rugby in essence, a HAND sport, NOT a kicking sport! There are examples of moving an object or ball if you like from one part of a village to another that exists in a couple of English villages from at least medieval times that is closer to rugby/Harpastum. The premise of Calcio is NOTHING like modern day soccer, not even close! it's closer to rugby league or union, or even Australian rules.

  3. Amaricans they sale weapon to the kids and they call us barbarians.. What a stupid people my god.. Ignorants

  4. Real though football. Not like in modern soccer, that from light kick they go down and acting as they are so injured and die:)

  5. As violent as italian history. A history of rape with one significant period where all was copied from the Greeks. Wow a bunch of idiots hitting each other

  6. It's a pity all of our rich heritage and culture will soon be destroyed at the hands of the ravening hoards of blacks washing across our once proud country. Italy will soon look like Somalia.

  7. idiotic, not barbaric. A bunch of idiots vs another bunch of idiots. They are just there to fight, 2 or 3 play the game to score. I bet that if they called them there just to fight, it was going to be the same.

  8. That's the most awesome sport i have ever seen, it's too bad there's no equivalent where i live.

  9. "Soccer" was not born here.
    Calcio is but one traditional ball game, asSOCiation football was codified in 1863 by Ebenezer Cobb Morley.

  10. Rugby was invited on the grounds of the Rugby school in England but Calcio what you call soccer was indeed Invented in Italia there are official records to prove this claim.
    Calcio was reserved for rich aristocrats who played every night between Epiphany and Lent. Even popes, such as Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII played the sport in Vatican City. The games could get violent as teams vied to score goals. A variation of Calcio Fiorentino was most likely played in the 15th century as well, as a match was organized on the Arno river in 1490, notable as a day so cold the waters were completely frozen. On another famous occasion, the city of Florence held a match on February 17, 1530, in defiance of the imperial troops sent by Charles V, as the city was under siege. In 1574 Henry III of France attended a game of "bridge fighting" – put on in his honor during a visit to Venice. The king is recorded as saying: "Too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game".

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