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From New Jersey To Florence: How I Became A Fiorentina Fan.

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It is great when you can feel at home in a foreign country

ACF Fiorentina v Pescara Calcio - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Viola Nation! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card (contest rules). We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Like every origin story it starts with something ordinary and turned it into something extraordinary. Growing up just outside New York City, I lived in a melting pot of cultures. Believe it or not in suburbia New Jersey soccer is the game of choice for young children looking to get into athletics. Growing up with much American pride I went to many MLS games. To me this was the best soccer on earth (boy was I wrong). I was a fan of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars and would attend games in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. These were fun, but after seeing too many 0-0 draws I started to get bored of the American version of the game. I always had an affinity for players that grew up in my state and made a name for themselves in the professional ranks. As a young goalkeeper my idol was Tim Howard. Being someone unattached from a European team, I followed Howard around to his respective clubs in England. At the end of the day, I just did not feel the passion of following any of these teams and lost touch with my professional soccer roots.

That all began to change when I started playing soccer at Clifton High School in Clifton, New Jersey. The former coach at Clifton High was a man by the name of Fernando Rossi. You guys may know his son Giuseppe, he played in Florence for a few years. Clifton had a high standard for their players, some went on to play for the US national team youth ranks and one player Matt Miazga ended up playing in England for Chelsea. The soccer culture was great and we used to always hear about the days when Fernando Rossi was the coach. I began to pay closer attention to Giuseppe Rossi because he was from my home town and was destined for a great career in European soccer.

Time went on like it always does, and I started getting ready to go to college. Like most American kids I had a list of colleges, some were reaches, some were safe, but all of the schools I applied to I wanted to go to. While getting back all of my applications, I got into every school except the one school I actually wanted to go to. Being put on the waiting list for Marist College ended up being the greatest thing to happen to me and the reason I became a Fiorentina fan. A few days before the deadline for young adults to pick which college they wanted to go to, I received a phone call from that same school that put me on their waiting list. They had an offer for me to spend my freshman year of college abroad in Florence, Italy. Like most 18 year olds, I was excited and scared to death of this opportunity. Just go to a new country for a whole year and go to college at the same time? This was crazy. Well long story short, I decided to go and that is when I started paying attention to soccer in Europe again.

It is amazing what happens when you live in a city. The whole city of Florence lives and breaths Fiorentina. On game days, you know the game is going on and there is a distinct buzz. This is especially the case in Europa league games. I started watching every game I could. It was definitely a blessing to be able to watch games at noon instead of waking up at 6 am in America. Then I went to my first game at Stadio Artemio Franchi. That was an experience that I will never forget. The first reason is because I was choked by the amount of smoke the guy in front of me was expelling after constantly having a cigarette in his mouth. If that is not culture shock to an American sports fan I do not know what is. The game was amazing though. Every fan was attentive and lived and died with every touch of the ball. This was something that has kind of been lost in America with the rise of commercialism in sports. Most people at a New York Yankees game have no idea what is going on when they are watching the games these days. I felt at home. I felt like I was with people that were passionate and excited about the same thing I was passionate and excited about. I love sports and I get emotional about them, but nothing felt greater than being with the fans in Florence. I hugged the guy that was smoking in front of me when Juan Cuadrado dribbled around a Torino defender with 3 minutes left in the game to get the win. There was this sense of family in the stadium. No one cared that I was American, they just cared that I was there to root for our team. Ever since that day, I have been as passionate as ever about Fiorentina. I even decided to go back my junior year of college to get that sense of sport back in my life (also to study I guess). Even though la Viola has created some heartbreak for me, they are my team and I will continue to support them through it all.

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