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Calcio storico in Piazza Santa Croce

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This morning, the sun peeked out behind the dark clouds for just a brief moment and then it began to rain. All I could think of was the partita (game) of calcio storico that we were going to see later in the afternoon. For a few days, the weather has been fairly nice in the morning and then the rain would break out in the early evening. Then, for two days we had no rain at all. And today it began to rain in the morning so I feared the worst for the partita, but luckily the sky cleared up.

Between all the bandiere (flags) in via dei Neri and the stadio (stadium) built in Piazza Santa Croce, I couldn't help but notice that it was time for the calcio storico. It was cancelled last year because the previous partita erupted in violence and the police had to come in to break it up.

When Alessandro asked me if I'd be interested in going to the partita di calcio storico, I almost couldn't contain my excitement. I admit that I was put off when I saw a few calcio storico pictures that seemed quite violent, but he told me that it's not that bad when you see it live. I was also interested to see it being played in its original location: Piazza Santa Croce.

The partita is between two squadre (teams): the azzurri (blue) for Santa Croce and the bianchi (white) for Santo Spirito. There are only four teams total, but only three are participating this year. Today's partita is the first of three.

By the time we arrived at the stadio this afternoon, the rain had finally stopped. Our seats were in the tribuna d'onore (stands of honor) in the shade, which would've been great had the weather been hotter. Unfortunately, it was sunny but the wind was very cool. Luckily, I brought a heavy scarf with me to keep warm.

We missed the corteo (procession) in via dei Neri because we wanted to make sure we got our seats in the tribuna. Men in colorful costumes entered the stadio to finish off the corteo and preceded the entrance of the two squadre.

The guys for each squadra warmed up before the partita on the sandy campo (field) in the middle of the piazza while the men in the costumes were still on the campo. The partita was supposed to start at 5 p.m., but with a lengthy corteo, it didn't start until an hour later.

For 50 minutes, the giocatori (players) who looked more like pugili (boxers) approached their opponents as if about to punch them and wrestled them to the ground. There were about twenty or so players per squadra, so the giocatori tried to immobilize the opponents to then make their way to score a goal. A goal was made by getting the ball above the red padded wall and below the curved fence a few feet above all along the end zone.

At times the game seemed quite slow and often I couldn't even see the ball as one of the giocatori held onto it. Then all at once one giocatore would run toward the end zone zigzagging his way through the other giocatori and passing it to his teammates to attempt to make a goal. My favorite goal was the last one by the azzurri when the giocatore kissed the ball before throwing it.

In the end, the azzurri won 5 to 3 and a half. As soon as the partita was over, Alessandro and I ran home to take hot showers as we were freezing after standing in the shady tribuna for two hours.

One of the highlights of the game was when I recognized one of the giocatori as a macellaio (butcher) that I know from the mercato (market) who always says, "Ciao Miss California!" when he sees me. It made the game even more interesting to watch someone I know play. Now, I'll have to say, "Ciao calciatore! (Hi soccer player!) when I see him at the mercato the next time I go.

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