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Fiorentina v Benevento will always remind us of Davide Astori

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It’s an emotional look back at our only previous home fixture with this Sunday’s opponents

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Ciao Davide
Photo credit should read CLAUDIO GIOVANNINI/AFP via Getty Images

As our regular readers may know, I do like to go into the history of our clashes with future opponents, and while this Sunday’s game will only be our second meeting with Benevento, it’s the hardest one of these I’ve had to do.

E si forma la lacrima...

I usually enjoy the hours of research that I can spend in trying to put together these pieces, but this one brings only tears and so much emotion. If I just stick to the facts I can tell you that our only previous fixture with Benevento at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was on March 11th 2018, and it finished with a 1-0 victory for Fiorentina. It was also an early Sunday lunch-time kick-off just like this weeks game.

To be honest, this was never going to be about the result, or the game that was played. It’s a day that I don’t think any Fiorentina fan or anybody involved with the club will ever forget. The fixture came just a week after the sad and shocking death of our captain, Davide Astori.

Son sempre i migliori che partono.. Ci lasciano senza istruzioni

We can only imagine the strength it took for the Fiorentina players to go on as normal that day, in fact there was nothing normal about it. There was a silence around the stadium that day that you just don’t get before a game. I’m not talking about the actual minute’s silence, which seemed to last forever, but even before this. Once the players had entered the pitch, to a much lighter applause than usual, a silence fell on the crowd.

There’s a quietness in our football grounds these days too, with no fans present, but the silence that day was much more powerful, sometimes the loudest sound of all can be just that, a certain type of silence.

Dove suona la musica...

Before this, the Jovanotti song Terra Degli Uomini had played in the stadium, with most of those present wiping away or fighting back tears. The Fiorentina anthem, for once, just seemed out of place that day, and the crowd certainly didn’t join in as they usually do. When the referee Fabrizio Pasqua lined up with the players from both sides there really was no need to signal the start of the minute’s silence, there wasn’t a sound to be heard in the stadium.

Football is more than just facts and formations, statistics and score-lines. Football is emotion, football is about memories and stories, and football is about the personalities and characters.

I don’t think any other so called ‘celebrity death’ has ever affected me as much as Davide Astori’s. Of course he wasn’t your typical celebrity or modern day footballer, there was no publicity around Davide, he got on with his job, and while he took it seriously he always did it with a smile. He was our Capitano. He was also one of us.

Dove tutto è possibile...

Even now, over 2 years later, it’s still hard to look at those scenes, the scarves and messages left outside the stadium, the players and manager in tears leaving their message there too. The funeral, where football rivalry and divisions were left to one side for one day. A city united in grief but also giving Davide the send off he deserved.

A sky filled with hundreds of balloons, purple and white.

The 13th minute of this game when the play stopped, when the Curva Fiesole, as only it knows how, paid tribute with their choreography. There was a goal in this game, when Victor Hugo rose above everyone else to head the ball home, and then the salute to his capitano.

Nell’indifferenza degli arbitri...

Seeing the players just collapse at the end of that game, especially the man who stepped in as captain, Milan Badelj, comforted by a referee showing another human side to the game. Because football is not just a game, it can never be only a game. You only need to look at what happened on that day, not only in Florence but in every stadium around Italy. As everyone came together, players and fans, everyone that loves the game we call calcio, for one day united.

I only met Davide Astori once, and I can’t say that I knew him, but really as Fiorentina fans we all knew Davide or felt as if we did. In that short time I did spend with him, he came across as just a warm, friendly guy, with a great sense of humour and an almost constant smile. He was one of those privileged enough to make his living playing the game he loved, and you could tell that he knew it and realized the responsibility that it brought.

E il futuro si srotola...

This weekend we face Benevento again, a club that acted with great dignity and showed enormous compassion that day, their players and their fans. Fiorentina will never forget that. There was in fact a player in the Benevento line up that day who is now back with Fiorentina, Lorenzo Venuti. Bryan Dabo was on the Fiorentina bench that day but he now plays with Benevento. Some of the Fiorentina players that are still with the club that played on that emotional day are Germán Pezzella, Nikola Milenković, Cristiano Biraghi, Riccardo Saponara, and Bartłomiej Drągowski was on the bench.

A lot has changed in this short time, which now seems so long ago. New owners at the club, on that day Andrea and Diego Della Valle were just like the rest of us, grieving. So many players have left, new faces here now. Stefano Pioli has since moved on, and after a couple of managers in between, Cesare Prandelli is now back at the club to take charge of his first game since his return.

Fino all’ultimo attimo...

I’ve never written about Davide before, and it’s still difficult to do it now. But it’s only right that we remember our Capitano as often as we can. He’s a player, a man that will never be forgotten by this club, by its fans or by anyone who loves the game.

E a volte i forzuti si accasciano...

Today is a desperately sad day for Fiorentina fans, especially for those who in the past have supported the team from the Curva Fiesole. We’ve heard the terrible news that one of Fiorentina’s most historic and passionate fans, Pietro Vuturo has died. Well known in the city of Florence by anyone with an interest in Fiorentina, or Calcio Storico, Pietro was a leader of the Ultras, and also known from his radio appearances, speaking of course about his beloved Fiorentina.

For anyone in Florence, they can pay their respects from 5pm today until 8am tomorrow at Cappelle dell’Ofisa in Via delle Panche.

The funeral mass will be celebrated tomorrow, Sunday, at 5pm at Sacro Cuore del Romito.

Ciao Pietro! Non è una stella che al mattino se ne va ma per sempre brillera.

Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images