Often, we see the symbols of our fanaticism being waived by fans in the stadium, but we rarely understand the story of how they came to be. Many of us have seen the picture of Rocco Commisso with a great big smile, holding up a Fiorentina Viola-American flag. It has been all over the Italian news and on social media, but where exactly did that flag come from?
As a 6-year-old boy, Simone Rosadi grew up in Prato, Central Italy’s third largest city behind Rome and Firenze. Many people there support Juventus, despite its close proximity to Firenze. His father was a very big supporter of Fiorentina, taking Simone to his first games. He grew up watching Fiorentina greats Batistuta and Rui Costa. The love this father had for city and team was immediately instilled into his son. On the first memory that stands out to him, Simone states, “I remember the 1996 Supercoppa game against Milan. It was a win for the Viola that saw Batistuta lead the way with two goals.” Simone was still too young to watch this game at the Franchi but watching it on TV was enough to cement him as a fan for life.
Simone continues, “Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Batistuta and Rui Costa play in person. My first game came after their era. I first saw the Fiorentina of Cesare Prandelli at the stadium. In my first game Adrian Mutu scored a goal assisted by Luca Toni in a 1-0 win over Siena.”
So how does a young man from Prato fit in to the picture of Rocco Commisso holding a Viola-American flag? It comes at the apex of two events in Simone’s life.
Despite a large support for Juventus in Prato, there are still a lot of people that root for the home team. In 2013, Gianluca Caminati founded Viola Club KK – Gli Ingestibili Prato, to organize those Viola fans in town. You can see their banner flying every game in the Curva Fiesole. Simone says, “I was a season ticket holder for the past 7 years. I have been an active member of the club since it was born. Since then we have organized trips to home and away games, dinners with legends of the past (Hamrin, Desolati, Riganò, Flachi), and two years ago we collaborated with ACF Fiorentina to organize a dinner with special guests Marco Benassi and Cristiano Biraghi.”
Simone has been working for 13 years as a champion for a company that produces Italian print fabrics in Prato, called Stamperia Fiorentina. Simone tells us how the next steps evolved, “The media reported a lot of information on the negotiation of the sale of Fiorentina, with interests from Rocco Commisso, a fund from Qatar and another buyer. Once the purchase by Rocco Commisso became official I designed the American flag in purple colors. I was very inspired by Rocco’s enthusiasm in buying the club, which brought the Delle Valle story to an end.” Watching the days after the announcement further motivated Simone to act, “I was even happier after seeing and hearing Rocco’s first interviews. I was very impressed with Rocco the person, his willingness to meet everyone and his humility. I hope it will always be like this because we need it.”
Flash forward (or back) to August 24th at the Aremio Franchi. It’s pregame of Fiorentina vs Napoli, spirits are high for the first game of the season. As the team is about to take the field, Rocco appears, and the crowd lets him know they see him. He starts off taking a lap around the Franchi serenaded by the fans. Simone picks up, “Rocco approached us in the Parterre di Maratona. As he got close our President of the Viola Club took the flag and launched it on to the field. Rocco Commisso saw it and picked it up immediately and was then photographed.”
Since then the pictures have gone viral. His flags now are seen flying all over the Franchi. It all started with a design, a launch and a photo. “The days following the Napoli game the front pages of the most important sports newspapers in Italy (La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport, Corriere dello Sport) used the image of Rocco holding the flag I created. I can’t quantify the enormous joy and pride that filled me. All of my friends immediately messaged me to congratulate me and ask for a flag.”
As you can see, this one flag held by Rocco in a picture that went viral across all of Italian sports media has given a man, a Viola Club, and an entire community a sense of pride and accomplishment that must have been a goal in its initial charter. The joy that their favorite club gives them every weekend, they now are able to give back to it. “My goal is to sell these flags to show our passion for this new, great company. A company that has already succeeded in selling a record number of season tickets not seen in the last 20 years. Seeing Joe Barone waving the Fiorentina flag and that of our Captain, Davide Astori during the Fiesole Curve party has filled my eyes with great joy.”
It was Simone’s hope that Rocco and Joe would see this story and understand how this flag was born. Out of the love that he and an entire Viola Club in Prato have for Fiorentina and its new owner came another rallying cry for what Fiorentina means to its fans. “He [Rocco] brought all the people back to the stadium, made us all proud of the society again and motivated us all to do things right. I wish him the best with our club, especially to have a new stadium where we can all rejoice and celebrate some trophies.”
“I want to conclude this interview by complementing our fellow Viola fans (VCNY) in America, because being Viola fans in America is a great thing for us all. A hug and Forza Viola” ~ Simone Rosadi