It’d be hard to blame Fiorentina fans for staying away from their flailing team right now. The Viola are flapping about in 15th place, just 3 points above the relegation zone, and have taken a single point from their past 6 matches. Vincenzo Montella got the sack after a run every bit as catastrophic as the one that got Stefano Pioli binned last year. New mister Giuseppe Iachini, while extremely successful in the crucible of Serie B, hasn’t ever impressed in the top flight. Rumors of Federico Chiesa’s impending exit abound. Marquee summer signing Franck Ribery is on the shelf with an ankle injury for at least another month. Everything is, in a word, bad.
So when fully 8,000 fans pack the Maratona stand in the Stadio Artemio Franchi for an open training session on New Year’s Day, it gives you an idea of just how closely linked this team is with its city. The supporters have been the only exciting part of this season (aside from the rise of Gaetano Castrovilli), showing up to every match, home and away, and drowning out the opposition with song regardless of the scoreline. Have a look at some of these pictures from this morning, when many people were just dragging out of bed to deal with the aftereffects of New Year’s Eve.
The fans gave the lads a big cheer when they appeared on the pitch.
They also gave Beppe Iachini a rousing chorus.
Ribery even made an appearance.
Perhaps part of that excitement came from the scrimmage (Castrovilli, naturally, scored the first “goal” of the decade), even though Chiesa was nursing a minor strain and sat out. According to the ever-reliable Massimo Basile, the training session also displayed a level of intensity that hadn’t been seen in a couple of years, which bodes well for Iachini’s future, as do reports that he’s brought some fun back to the team as well.
A single training session, no matter how well and enthusiastically attended, doesn’t qualify as a turnaround. There’s no way to know if Iachini is really the man for the job (although the early signs seem reassuring). There’s no way to know if these fans will continue to back the team to the hilt, or if they’ll revolt as they did under the Della Valles. There’s no way to know if any of this will work out for the Viola. For right now, though, let’s all eat our blackeyed peas, pork and sauerkraut, pomegranates, and whatever else is traditional for the start of the year. Let’s enjoy the hope that a new year brings, sharing in the joy of the fans at the Franchi and around the world, and let ourselves dream.