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13 years ago today, Fantini put Fiorentina back in Serie A

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As bad as things may feel for the Viola now, it was a lot worse just thirteen years ago.

Udinese Calcio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Can you imagine Serie A without this?
Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”

Thirteen years ago, the Stadio Artemio Franchi was the most joyful place in the world, because that’s where Fiorentina secured promotion back to Serie A after two years in the wilderness of Serie C and Serie B. In front of an official count of 43,000 fans (and what was probably several thousand more than that), Enrico Fantini headed home a Christian Maggiocross just after halftime to put the Viola ahead and ensure their promotion via the playoff, despite finishing just 6th in the league.

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”

This was just the second year of the Della Valle era, and the team featured few recognizable names besides that of the redoubtable Angelo di Livio, perhaps the greatest (albeit not the most talented) Viola player of all time. After picking up just 10 points from their first 9 matches, the dream of a year stopover in Serie B on the way to promotion seemed a pipe dream. But a strong second half rocketed them into 6th place, where, due to top league’s expansion to twenty teams, they earned a chance to play 4th-bottom Perugia for their fate.

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”

Four days previously, Fantini had set the stage by scoring in the 10th minute at Perugia’s Stadio Renato Curi, handing the Viola an away goal and the lead in the two-legged tie. Now free to sit back, soak up Grifoni attacks, and try to hit on the break themselves, manager Emiliano Mondonico instead maintained the positive approach he’d brought to the side since his mid-season appointment as the mister.

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”

And it paid off just after halftime, as Maggio bustled up the right wing, lost the ball to Christian Manfredini, won it back, and swung the ball in towards the back post, where Fantini had somehow escaped both centerbacks and rose to head the ball into the netting past goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, who could only watch in despair. The Franchi erupted in joy as Fantini sprinted to celebrate in front of a rapturous Curva while his teammates and coaches hugged, laughed, cried, and generally lost it. With a 2-0 lead on aggregate and an away goal, Fiorentina were going back to Serie A. Even after Guilherme do Prado equalized in the 82nd minute, there was never any doubt. Fiorentina were going up, up, up.

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”

Riccardo Gentile’s call for Sky Sport is wonderful, but doesn’t do justice to the moment. After all, he knew he was watching the Gigliati, who’ve always been capable of spectacular meltdowns (hi, Borussia Monchengladbach). So he was enthusiastic, sure, and optimistic, but he didn’t have a Ray Hudson moment. He didn’t go full Davidd Guetta. He kept some of his euphoria in reserve. And that, perhaps, is the most fitting tribute for a club like Fiorentina that’s always on the cusp of brilliance but never quite tips into it: joy for the moment, but the thinnest veil of trepidation for the future.

“Propita Maggio attenzione. Maggio. Il sua cross. Fantini reta! Uno a zero!”