Being a 26-year-old from the North East of England, I’m often asked why Fiorentina? Here's why!
Football has been my passion for as long as I remember. I've grown up watching Sunderland play (mostly in the Premier League), and they are my first footballing love. I’ve been watching the Black Cats all my life, but I've always had a liking for Italian teams. I'm not entirely sure why, but I remember always wanting the Italian teams to beat the English sides in European competitions.
It took until the summer of 2013 to venture to Italy with my family and a trip to Tuscany. We stayed in Montecatini, a little to the west of Florence. We visited Pisa, Lucca, and the great city of Florence. I fell in love with Florence, from its beautiful architecture to its stunning food: everything was sublime. With it being in the offseason, I didn't manage to get to the Artemio Franchi, but from then on, I followed Fiorentina.
Initially, I just kept up to date with the scores and watched as many games on English TV as I could. The match that stood out was the 4-2 win over Juventus. What a game. Giuseppe Rossi's brilliant hattrick combined with an epic comeback was the spark that ignited my desire to follow Fiorentina. It didn't take long for me to realise that was the fixture I needed to sample.
I would have loved to go to any game at the Franchi, but a few years later in 2017, we booked a trip to Florence to see Fiorentina vs Juventus to celebrate my 21st birthday along with my brother and my dad.
I was so desperate to go to the game, I learnt a harsh lesson. Avoid online ticket touts! We used an online site which on the week of the game told us that our tickets weren't available. I was crushed. Withflights booked, we still ventured to Florence and hoped we could still find a way of getting to the match.
Even in the beautiful surroundings of the Duomo and the Uffizi I only had one thing on my mind, we need to get the tickets. With my heart pounding and nerves jangling we went to the ticket office early in the afternoon of game day. Getting to the front of the queue I prayed, and to my delight, they had tickets available. My smile was the length of the Arno, as I couldn't quite believe, I was going to see Fiorentina play against Juventus.
Adorned with the Viola colours we went to the game later that day and the atmosphere was electric. The display from the fans in the Curva Fiesole just added to the excitement. Onto the game, and Fiorentina were brilliant, you'd have never known that Juve were the current Serie A champions, but in fitting fashion, it was the Bianconeri who took the lead. Despite that hammer blow, Fiorentina rallied, and the introduction of Mauro Zarate changed the game. He won the ball high up and set up a moment that I'll never forget. The ball dropped to Nikola Kalinic who bent it beautifully into the far corner. What came after that was pure ecstasy. I was met by the arms of the man next to me who gave me a huge bear hug. Following the goal, as Italian fans do, I screamed out the name of Kalinic. I will always remember my dad saying what were you shouting there? And at that moment, I felt like a true Viola fan.
Despite the hosts being the dominant side, Juve then scored again. With all hope looking lost, Fiorentina were awarded a penalty (it may have been a questionable call). Up stepped Kalinic looking to level the scores, but no, Gianluigi Buffon denied the Croat. In the last minute of the game, Kalinic had the chance to make amends, but he hit the bar, and it wasn't to be. I was gutted.
I look back at that game, and don't think about the result, it was devastating at the time, but I remember the moments when I was wearing the Viola shirt and was one of them. That cemented my love for this great club, and I've been a fan of the club ever since.