It’s tough to gauge the feeling amongst Fiorentina fans right now. On the one hand, there’s more talent in this squad—which is the youngest in Italy—than we’ve seen since the early Vincenzo Montella days. What’s more, there players themselves have a fantastic group mentality, albeit one born out of the trauma of Davide Astori’s death last year. Not surprisingly, the Viola are perhaps a popular “dark horse” team to make some noise in Serie A this year, according to pretty much everyone. With youth and quality all over the pitch, Fiorentina could be at the start of a very, very good cycle.
On the other hand, though, there are still plenty of problems in this team, and it’s hard to deny that they’re mostly at the level of club leadership. The continued inability to get a stadium built despite years of public effort are frustrating, but the real issue is the Della Valles’ clashes with fans over the appropriate level of investment in the team. This perceived miserliness, and the backlash against it, really began when Montella asked the owners for more money and the brothers responded by sacking him, much to the dismay of Viola fans.
The dissonance between management and tifosi has only increased since then, reaching an ugly peak last summer when Diego Della Valle, stung by criticism about his spending over the previous several transfer windows, announced that he would listen to offers from anyone who wanted to by the club, prompting accusations from the Curva that the Tod’s billionaire didn’t understand the worth of the team. While the howls of rage have since died down—the goodwill generated from Astori’s death and season that should have seen Fiorentina in the Europa League had a soothing effect on all parties involved—rumblings of discontent persist and occasionally flare up.
Having set the stage, let’s get back to the headline. Mere days before the first match of the season, the Associazione Tifosi Fiorentini, (or ATF, which is a hilarious acronym to an American) one of the major fan groups in the Curva Fiesole, has released a statement on its Facebook page calling for a unified and energetic approach in the stadium this year. Emphasizing the need for positivity and cooperation between the club, the city, and the fans, most of the document is a call for the sort of enthusiasm, singing, cheering, and general exuberance the Curva is noted for. It also denounces anyone trying to pick fights on social media, which is rather nice too. All in all, though, it’s more or less what you’d expect from a fan group getting itself geed up for another round of rowdy support.
The postscript, though, is pretty distinctive. I’ve translated it here because it’s a real change of pace from what we’ve heard from a lot of supporters of late.
While acknowledging that there’s been some bad blood between fans and ownership recently, the ATF has called for unity within the stadium. After fans staged a walkout during the Hellas Verona match last year, the specter of protests in the Franchi during a match has hung over the club. At least one major group, though, has quite rightly rejected such actions as counterproductive.
The ATF doesn’t speak for all the fan groups in the Curva, although it’s one of the most powerful entities in the stand. Setting this strong example is likely to spill over to the rest of the tifosi and prevent any ugliness during match play. However, there’s still a chance that, if the Della Valles don’t invest enough—emotionally or financially—that the fans will rebel. It’s not going to hit the levels of the 1990 riots over the sale of Roberto Baggio to Juventus, but this resentment has simmered long enough on both sides that a guarantee from the ATF to keep it clean at the Franchi is a relief, and also plain old common sense.