Calcio Storico, Florence’s Fight Club

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In June each year, the city of Florence plays host to an early form of football that originated in Italy, and it’s violent. Calcio Storico recreates games that took place in the artistic capital, with its roots dating back to Roman times.

The Greeks played a game called “Sfermomachia” that was later adopted by the Roman army, transforming it into a type of training for their warriors “l’Harpastum”, literally, “to rip off“, says the Calcio Storico Fiorentino website.

Played on sandy ground using a large ball stuffed with rags or leather, the only objective was to get the ball into the opponent’s field, by any means.

In the second half of the 5th century, the sport had become widespread among young Florentines. Later during the rule of the Medici dynasty, matches were organized during the Carnival period.

Each June since 1930, the games are recreated in Florence. The first tournament was organized between the four quarters of the city, with players dressed in historic costumes from the 16th century.

Matches last 50 minutes and are played on a field covered in sand. A white line divides the pitch in two, and a goal net runs the width of each end.

Each team has 27 players with no substitutes. Tactics allowed include head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking, but kicks to the head are forbidden.

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