Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is renowned for art and culture. It is therefore quite apt that it has a stadium that is one of the best examples of 20th century architecture in the whole of the city.
Designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi the stadium includes a huge tower called the “Tower of Marathon” which is 230ft tall. The concrete stadium has superb Roman style pillars at the entrance and once inside there is a perfect view from whatever seat you are given.
The stadium was renovated for the 1990 World Cup and the changes were most notable when they removed the running track and adding extra seating. This now makes the stadium a purpose built football arena and the large capacity creates an electric atmosphere.
One fantastic attribute this stadium has is that from the stands you can look out onto the rolling Tuscan hills, a view which is truly breath taking.
The Ultras on the Curva Fiesole are known as La Vecchia Guardia Firenze and are loud well organised and fiercely anti Juventus. If you are going to watch football in Italy this is a venue that should be near the top of the list.
The Derby against Bologna is also potent (I had fireworks thrown at me at this match in the stadium)
Key Ultra Groups: Ultras Viola & CAV - Colletivo Autonomo Viola
Other Ultra/Fan Groups: Legione Viola (Purple Legion), Guelfi (Guelphs), Granducato (Grand Duchy), L’Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi – signifying fields or a province called Campi in Florence), Vieussex, Settebello (Beautiful seven), Fiorenza 93, Firenze Ultras, Gruppo Storico Ultras V.’73, Aficionados, Urban Crew, Alterati (Altered state – drug related), Fedelissimi (Stalwart faith), Bomber Group, Pazzi di lei (Crazy for Fiorentina), Sindrome Viola (Purple Syndrome), Vecchio Stampo (Old Fashioned), Stati Liberi del Tifo (Supporters Free State), Viola Korps, Gruppo Signa (Signa Group) and MANY others!!!
In 1289, a schism between the Pro-Papal Guelph forces of Florence and the imperial Ghibelline forces of Arezzo culminated in a brutal conflict at the Battle of Campaldino. This battlewas part of the long struggle between the popes and Holy Roman Emperors for power in Italy. It also reflected the fervent civic rivalries of the era, rivalries which remain to this day. On the blood strewn plains of Campaldino the Florentines and their allies triumphed. It was a victory that secured the Guelphs in Florence. The Tuscan Republic would go onto to become the birthplace of the Renaissance, a civic colossus on the Italian peninsula. Florence remains a city of unquestionable prestige and though the days of civic war are over, the city’s team – Fiorentina provide an outlet for campanilismo – or local patriotism. Expressions of Guelphism are often seen at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and under the aegis of the Ultras the city’s medieval splendour lives on. The rich heritage of Florence has seen the metropolis and its football club viewed by the supporters as one entity, a victory for La Viola being a victory for Florence. The team is the city’s symbolic army and it is these cultural nuances that set Fiorentina supporters apart in the world of the Italian ultras.
Fiorentina are said to have the 6th largest following in Italy and this is exemplified in their numerous Ultra groups (I lost count around 100). This perhaps reveals a trait particular to Florence, the need for individuality and ingenuity are entwined with the city’s glorious past. The first origins of Viola fan groups can be traced back to 1965 with the formation of Vieussex (the name of a historic library in Florence) and Settebello (Beautiful 7). These two groups are present on the Curva today, with Vieussex residing in the Curva Ferrovia and Settebello in the Curva Fiesole, the heartbeat of the Artemio Franchi.
One of the more renowned groups to have resided in the Curva Fiesole is the Ultras Viola (Purple Ultras). Formed in 1973, a vicious fight with the Genovese led some supporters to create a group of “super supporters” who could compete with any adversary. Founded and led by a man called Stefano Biagini aka ‘Pump’ this period is described by a Viola Ultra as the ‘glorious 70’s’ characterised by violent clashes, stolen banners, stadiums without police beatings, dangerous away days and above all the years of ‘Calcio vero’ (uncorrupted football). Despite the group’s prominence the Ultras Viola disbanded just 10 years after their inception following violent exchanges with Romanisti which saw their twinning with the Romans come to an abrupt end. Stolen banners (which both fans blamed on each other) sparked a irreconcilable quarrel and this combined with a rise in eminence of Colletivo Autonomo Viola or CAV (Autonomous Purple Collective) led to a changing of the guard. Created in 1978, CAV took a central position on the Curva and despite their dissolution in 2011 the group’s vestiges have ensured that the Fiesole remains one of the most vivacious Curvas on the peninsula.
It is also worth highlighting Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi) a clan who lived a brief but fiery existence. Tempestuous in nature this group were said to be the culprits in an infamous incident already alluded to in this series where Fiorentina Ultras launched petrol bombs onto a train full of Bologna fans. A 14 year old tragically died and Alcool Campi quickly ceased to exist.
“Neither left nor right” has always been the motto of Fiorentina’s Ultras who have predominately refused political affiliation. This however does not have any bearing on their twinning’s and rivalries, epitomised in their longstanding friendship with Hellas Verona fans (traditionally right-wing) after ex-Fiorentina players joined the Gialloblu and helped them to their one and only Scudetto in 1985.
It is impossible to talk about Fiorentina without mentioning their virulent hatred for Juventus. When the Bianconeri come to the Artemio Franchi a furore rages across the city. The origins of this rivalry date back to the 1981/82 Serie A season in which the Viola had the Scudetto snatched from their grasp by Juventus on account of some dubious refereeing. This rivalry was accentuated when Fiorentina’s cult hero Roberto Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990, triggering riots across the city.
In parts of the Tuscan capital you can buy stickers which read; zona anti-gobbizzata – hunchback-free zone. Hunchbacks are seen as lucky in Italy thus the nickname was patented for Juventus, a team seen as notoriously lucky. In what must be a sight to behold, albeit a strange one, Fiorentina fans have also been known to perform a ritual on players signed from Juventus in which they are ‘de-hunchbacked’. However this rivalry can take on a more sinister nature, with some Viola fans taunting their rivals about the Heysel tragedy which claimed the lives of 39 Juventini. Fiorentina fans have been known to wear Liverpool merchandise when facing their Turin adversaries, and following the tragedy in 1985 a banner was revealed by Fiorentina Ultras reading “39 less hunchbacks”. Juventus fans claim this is the reason for CAV’s attempt to befriend Liverpool fans back in 2009 after the two met in the Champions League.
Despite this the Fiorentina Ultras are renowned for their loyalty, sarcasm and irony. They are no strangers to decrying the club’s hierarchy or the team itself if they feel things aren’t being done to their lofty Florentine standards. Former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose disastrous tenure at the club culminated in bankruptcy and demotion to Serie C2 in 2002 can certainly vouch for this. Viola fans had to endure the humiliation of losing the club name for a year, which became Florentia Viola, and 30,000 of them descended on the city centre to make their feelings known to Cecchi Gori.
The hub of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is synonymous with famous names including Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli and the Medici. The Fiorentina Ultras take untrammelled pride in the city’s cultural history and the Artemio Franchi has become something of a holy ground for the Viola fanatics. Awash with purple and white the stadium can produce electrifying atmospheres and decorative choreographies that even the greatest Florentine artists would be proud to call their own.
CLASSIC PLAYER: GABRIEL BATISTUTA (BATIGOL)
When Diego Maradona claimed that Gabriel Batistuta was the best striker that has ever graced the face of the earth, nobody lifted an eyebrow. No greater praise can be heaped on the man known as ‘Batigol’ as his powerful play and deadly ability in the box made his feared throughout his career.
Fiorentina have often had (and still do have) fantastic offensive players but none have compared to Batistuta. In 1991 when he signed from Boca Juniors nobody would have expected the impact that he would have on Italian Football.
In a nine year period in Florence, the Argentine phenomenon received almost religious adulation from the Curva Fiesole. This fervent worship of their new hero was created through his god given ability to score goals. Serie A was in its pomp and known throughout the world for boasting some of the toughest defenses of all time. All of them however, without exception feared Batigol like he was the devil himself.
To put his goal scoring record into context, he is in the top ten all-time leading goals scorers in Serie A history. He scored 168 goals in 269 games for Fiorentina and 184 goals in 318 matches in his time in Italy. This equals a goal approximately every 1.7 matches which is simply breathe taking.
Batistuta did not seek the lime light and was also a loyal servant to the ‘Viola’. He stayed with them in during relegation to Serie B in 1992/93 and helped them return to the top flight. He turned down moves from bigger clubs although his loyalty unfortunately did not see him rewarded with a Serie A title with Fiorentina. When he eventually left he walked away with a Serie B medal, a Coppa Italia winner’s medal ad a Super Coppa Italiana trinket to his name. The nearest he got to the title was in 1998/99 when Firenze looked odds on to win the title, however, in week 20 he pulled up with a hamstring injury and the ‘Viola’ missed out to Milan.
Roma eventually turned his head in 2000 and he left the Renaissance city and transferred his predatory instincts to the Eternal City. There he would also become a legend helping Roma to win only their third title in a season that will go down in Giallorossi history. He scored 30 times in 63 games for Roma before being loaned to Inter in his later years for a less successful spell.
For a striker he had everything, power pace skill, ariel ability strength, confidence and seemingly never ending form. It is infact hard to think of another striker from this era who was more complete or a deadly. When Calcio ruled the world Maradona was watching and thinking ‘Nobody is better than Batigol’
Napoli slip up as Roma maintain 100% start to the season
A scintillating weekend of Serie A action saw tears at the Rome derby and tears for Milito but do not fear as there was still much to smile about. Goals galore for Inter, Roma avenged the Coppa Final and Napoli won in Milan without a Maradona in sight. There was hardly time to breath before it was all happening again as Serie A showcased some more exciting action.
It kicked off in Udine on Tuesday as the Zebrette welcomed Genoa at the Stadio Friuli. Antonio Di Natale once again dragged Udinese to their only their second of the season. The home side dominated possession but failed to put their chances away. It was Di Natale’s free kick that was, unfortunately for Emanuele Calaiò, turned into his own net. Udinese’s season seems back on track whilst for Genoa the derby win seems a long time ago.
Napoli have had a perfect start to the season and were coming off the back of beating Milan whilst visiting Sassuolo had just been thumped 0-7 by Inter at home. The San Paolo smelt blood and when Blerim Dzemaili scored early on it only looked like getting worse. When Simone Zaza equalised almost straight away it seemed like it was just a blip. The game then slowed done and Napoli looked tired, the game ended 1-1 much to the dismay of the Neapolitans.
Roma were another team with a 100% start and this continued on Wednesday after Medhi Benatia and Gervinho netted to dispatch a beleaguered Sampdoria. The Roman side are looking an attractive proposition under Rudi Garcia whilst Sampdoria look lost already. The other team from the capital thanked Ederson, Senad Lulic and Hernanes as Lazio pushed aside Catania 3-1, a goal from Pablo Barrientos was merely a consolation.
A close eye should be kept on Livorno as they continue to look like outside contenders to stay in the division. A 1-1 draw with Cagliari saw Andrea Luci give the home side the lead before Victor Ibarbo equalised for the Sardinians. The draw did neither any harm as Livorno move up to seventh whilst Cagliari are eleventh. Another draw between two teams who are arguably overachieving saw four goals shared. Hellas Verona had to reply to Torino twice in an extremely entertaining game that saw Alessio Cerci claim man of the match by scoring twice. Hellas now sit in 10th whilst Toro move to eighth.
The shock of the season was on the cards as Milan trailed Bologna 3-1 in the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara with very little time on the clock. Robinho then scored to give the Rossoneri hope before Ignazio Abate netted to break Bolognas hearts. Milans poor week continues but it could have been much, much worse.
Juventus won in controversial circumstances as an own-goal from Alessandro Bernardini saw the away side beat Chievo 2-1 at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. The offside decision in this match is certainly the new hot topic of debate.
Game of the day was played out in the Stadio Ennio Tardini where Parma hosted Atalanta. Seven goals and a red card saw the home side edge out the side from Bergamo despite going down to ten men. The game unbelievably stood at 4-2 at half time and when Amauri was sent off Atalanta saw their opportunity; however, despite pulling one back the end of the game saw Parma finish the stronger nearly netted the third.
Inter and Fiorentina played last night in a game that Inter came from behind to win 2-1. Inter leap-frogged Napoli into second (albeit on goal difference) after their impressive away victory.
Article by Richard Hall, Follow me on Twitter at @Gentleman_Ultra
Or on Tumblr at http://thegentlemanultra.tumblr.com/
Christian Vieri is still one of the most iconic strikers ever to have graced the world game. Over 18 years he played for 12 clubs making 374 appearances and scoring 194 goals. Add to this his national record of 29 goals in 43 games and it is clear to see why he is in the FIFA 100 best players of all time list.
At 6ft 1inch Vieri was the complete predator, strong and instinctive when it came to finishing he had rapid reactions. This was at its most apparent when he was plying his trade with Inter where injuries prevented him fulfilling what could have been one of the most dangerous partnerships of all time with Ronaldo.
Vieri’s career is littered with silverware won at his clubs and personally as well. When Calcio ruled the world, nobody could stop Vieri scoring.
Diego Fuser was the complete winger in the early 1990’s. These were the glory years for Serie A and the flanks were dominated by Fuser whether playing for Torino, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Parma or Roma.
It is testament to his abilities that he managed to play for such a distinguished list of clubs in a career that spreads from 1986 at Torino to the unbelievably the present day where he still plys his trade for Colline Alfieri Don Bosco (an amateur side in Piedmont.)
Strong, athletic, quick and incredibly skillfull Fuser shone as one of the most dangerous wingers in the divison. Most noted for his time at Lazio where he played from 1992-1998 featuring 188 times and scoring 35 goals.
When Calcio ruled the world, Fuser was just getting started!
Even now, the memory still hurts. We were winning 6-0 and it did not matter a jot. Results elsewhere were sending us to Serie B and there was nothing we could do. Radios around the Stadio Artemio Franchi confirmed the dreadful news.
The first cut was definitely the deepest. I have seen Fiorentina relegated twice but that demotion in 1993 was certainly the more painful experience. We had been in second place at Christmas with a side which included the likes of Brian Laudrup, Stefan Effenberg and Gabriel Batistuta. It made no difference to our final fate.
Things had started excitingly under Gigi Radice with a 7-1 win over Ancona and a 7-3 home hammering by Milan in the opening weeks of the campaign. He masterminded a triumph over Juventus in December but it was not enough to keep him in a job for long. A home reverse at the hands of Atalanta in January had volatile film-producer president Vittorio Cecchi Gori sending him packing. And then our world caved in.
The opinionated TV pundit Aldo Agroppi was brought in and produced a series of results which should serve as a warning to so-called experts everywhere. His first game was a 4-0 defeat by Udinese. It would be more than two months before the boys in purple would record a win. By that point, panic had set in.
Agroppi was shown the door too, with a last-gasp effort to avoid the drop coming from Luciano Chiarugi. It failed to provide sufficient points and when Foggia came to Florence on the final day of the season the writing was on the wall. We needed other sides to do us a favour and, in Italy, that just does not happen.
And yet, for a while, we had hope. Four goals up by half-time, our relegation rivals Brescia were only managing a draw with Sampdoria. And things got better early in the second period when news filtered through that Roma had taken the lead against Udinese - the other side involved in the three-way fight to avoid the last two relegation spots.
The Curva Fiesole crackled with the sound of match updates coming from around the country. Every cry of “Attenzione! Attenzione!” by the Tutto Il Calcio commentators brought a frisson of fear. The match being played out on the pitch seemed like a sideshow.
Fiorentina went 6-0 up but the news from elsewhere took a turn for the worse. Brescia pulled 2-1 ahead and then, with 10 minutes remaining, came the double hammer-blow. The Bresciani put their result beyond doubt with another goal while Udinese grabbed an equaliser. The sombre silence of the Franchi left no room for dubiety, we were going down.
Everybody sleepwalked through those closing moments. Foggia waltzed around zombie-like defenders to make the score 6-2. It was a resounding victory which nobody celebrated.
The jokes at the Viola’s expense were not long in coming. Some suggested that their new sponsors should be toothbrush makers Oral B (it translates as “Now in B” in Italian). It would certainly be a while before Fiorentina fans could smile again.
Giancarlo is an amazing writer and I persnally thank him for this superb article. I hope he joins us again soon
Follow Giancarlo Rinaldi on Twitter @ginkers and his own amazing blog http://giancarlorinaldi.tumblr.com/