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|History of Football - The Italians|
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
How did it start and why is it so popular ?
The roots of "Calcio" can be found in the Roman game of "Harpastum" or "Arpasto", played by legionaries of the Roman "Florentia". Games were organized on the "Prato" (between Porta Prato and Ognissanti), a paradeground for shows and drills of the Florentine army. Other places were : Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Piazza Santa Croce. The history of "Calcio" officially stretches back to the 16th century. It was a kickball called "giuoco del calcio fiorentino", played principally by the aristocracy and played every night between Epiphany and Lent. The tournament in Florence was organized between four parts of the city : Santo Spirito ("Bianchi" or white team), Santa Maria Novella ("Rossi" or red team), Santa Croce ("Azzurri" or blue team) and San Giovanni ("Verdi" or green team).
The most famous game of "Calcio" took place on 17th February 1530 in "Piazza di Santa Croce" in Florence. At the time the entire city of Florence was under siege from the Medici. Even though the siege was taking its toll, the people of Florence were determined to go ahead with the game in order to maintain the tradition of playing during the February carnival and to show contempt to the invading army. Musicians even played on the rooftops to enliven the game. The result of the game was not recorded, maybe because the game was really about the city of Florence showing unity in the face of the Medici.
The game of "Calcio" itself was similar to rugby and a lot more violent than the game played today. Young men of exceptional strength, notably the aristocrats, played it on special occasions. The game itself involved teams of 27 players who could use both their feet and hands to play the ball. Games were generally played in the "piazzas" (city squares) of major cities. Goals were scored by throwing the ball over a designated spot at the opposing end of the field of play. The key rule in "Calcio" is that the ball is kept moving. If the ball stops, play is paused and resumed.
"Calcio" was an incredibly popular game in Italy and its influence even stretched to the Vatican where popes such as Pope Clement VII, Leo IX and Urban VIII were known to play occasionally. In 1580 a gentleman called Giovanni Bardi (born 5 February 1534, Florence / died in 1612, Rome / count of Vernio, musician, writer and scientist, influential in the evolution of opera / about 1580 he founded the Fiorentine Camerata, a group of musicians and poets who met at his home to discuss music in Greek culture) published the first set of rules regarding "Calcio", approximately three hundred years before the rules of association football were recorded. "Calcio" is no longer played in Italy with the exception of the June festival in Florence, when exhibition matches are held. Every year on the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, June 24, the game is played in Florence. The 16th century "piazza" of Santa Croce is covered with sand and 4 teams of 27 people play the rough game of "Calcio Fiorentino" in medieval clothing.
The name of "Calcio" refers now to the Italian football league, "Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio".
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