Even before everything fell apart today, this season has been a disaster, one of the worst I can remember. It's been hard to keep my interest in Fiorentina up - I have still been following results, checking the tabloids, but I haven't gone out of my way to wake up for games this year, only watching at my own convenience. A year full of lifeless results and disagreement with the direction the team has been going in has left me numb. I just wanted this season to be over, without realizing I'd be cursed to remember it for an even more horrible reason than I could imagine.
It's easy to forget that away from all the nonsense, these athletes we cheer for and sometimes boo are humans. Unfortunately the easiest way to remind ourselves of this is when tragedy strikes, usually death. Death in football is inescapable, and always will be, no matter what else changes. To wake up today to find out Davide Astori, Fiorentina captain, had died in his sleep...my initial reaction was more confusion than say, the more obvious shock that came after the Chapecoense plane crash, or when Dani Jarque collapsed on the field. Today though...no matter how many times I read the news, it wouldn't register right away.
As unfair as it is, in away, it is fitting that if tragedy had to strike Astori, it would come in such an unassuming way. In retrospect, I took his presence for granted the past few years. When he arrived on loan from Cagliari in 2015, it was a signing that just made sense. It wasn't a flashy, exciting move, or a frustrating sign of a lack of ambition, which is all too common these days at this club, it was just...agreeable. Nothing revolutionary, but one of the rare moves where there was virtually no disagreement. Astori was a Serie A veteran by that point, a reliable, above average figure, a tier below the league's best but a dependable, well rounded figure. And he immediately seemed to fit in, a technically skilled defender who fit the football we were playing back then perfectly. He immediately received acclaim without stealing the show. When he was declared captain this year, it just seemed to make sense. He silently found himself as the club's best center back the previous year as Gonzalo started to show his age. He was not a perfect player, but one who was never a cause of frustration, even in his worst games, he rarely gave us a reason to be angry at him.
It's become a joke around here that the captaincy is cursed, following the sudden exits of Pasqual, Gonzalo, and Borja, not long after being awarded the captaincy. I never expected it to take such a dark turn, suddenly the sadness I felt when Gonzalo and Borja left the club seems like nothing. As I already said, I took for granted the idea that Astori would be the captain and starting defender for the rest of this season, and likely for at least the next year. I don't know what direction this club is heading in; if anything I believe changes are needed, but in my mind I already penciled in a starting defensive pairing of Astori and Pezzella for next season, even without knowing what would be around them.
But this of course goes beyond football. I only know Davide as a football player; he was a year older than me, he had a family. The reactions from his teammates and peers suggest he was as agreeable as a person as he was a player. This is painful for us, I can't imagine what it feels like for those who actually knew the man. It's not fair that this should happen to anyone.
For better or worse, the show must go on. This was a season many of us already checked out on; it will be especially difficult to care about results now, but things will get back to normal eventually. But the feeling we are missing something will linger around for a long time.
If there's any positive we can take from this, it's to appreciate what we have, even when it was gone. As a Fiorentina fan, all I can do is thank Davide for what he has given us, even if I wish this could be said in far different circumstances.