After giving an insight into the origins of the derby between Fiorentina and Empoli, azzurri fan Francesco kindly agreed to return to us to give his thoughts from the away section of the Stadio Artemio Franchi last Sunday. The same game, seen from a different perspective, shows that a disappointing 2-2 draw for the viola was actually a hard fought point that capped a great day for the Empolesi.
It’s a cold and pretty sunny morning in Tuscany today. I go to a café near my home to have breakfast. This café was established in a former local section of the Italian Communist Party. Once, people talked about politics here, now elderly men discuss football…
<<Penalty and red card!>>
I listen to them argue.
The bartender shakes his head <<They have been discussing the game since 07.30!>>
Two days later, the Fiorentina – Empoli match is still a hot topic. All because last Sunday the match at the Franchi was one of the most exciting derbies ever. This café has a peculiarity: this is a place where the Democratic Party has a local section with two fan club are hosted: Empoli and Fiorentina! Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (former major of Florence and huge Fiorentina fan) visited this café two years ago and talked with these elderly men. Of course about football!
Yesterday I bought two copies of the newspaper "La Nazione": the Florence edition and the Empoli edition. In the sport section the headlines were: "Viola vamps! Kalinic hero" on the first, "Blues close to the derby win" on the second.
I went through the derby with a swirl of emotions. The day of the match started in the wrong way. My girlfriend phoned me to say that she could not come to the stadium because she did not feel well. I was very disappointed because I felt this was a bad omen: she’s my amulet!
I drove to Florence with my friends Paride and Eleonora while the most part of the one thousand of Empoli Fc fans went the short distance to Florence by train.
<<Fiorentina has never had a draw this season. Maybe this is the first time - in which case, a draw would be a golden point for us>> I stated.
As scheduled, in an atmosphere of solidarity, the two teams entered onto the pitch to the tune of the French national anthem (in memory of the Paris victims caused by terrorist attacks last week). In that cathartic moment I could not resist to sing my favourite chorus: "Aux armes citoyens/ Formez votre bataillon/ Marchons! Marchons!" It was to set the scene for the game!
We saw from the first minutes that Empoli was more aggressive and brave than Fiorentina.
"YOU’RE THE SLAVES OF FLORENCE!" The Fiesole sang towards us. We didn’t answer, our only chorus was to support the Blues that played really well. In the 18th minute our winger Saponara gave an assist to Marko Livaja and our Croatian striker scored under our stands! Livaja was offside but all the same it was 1-0 Empoli!
Ten minutes later, our midfielder Marcel Bucher scored a beautiful goal from distance, with Fiorentina’s goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu remaining motionless. 2-0 Empoli!
We were all crazy! I’ve never seen Empoli fans to celebrate a goal this way! The rest of the Franchi stadium was silent. There would also be a penalty for Empoli but the referee didn’t whistle! Anyway, Fiorentina – Empoli 0-2 was the score at half time.
Buchel raddoppia...e nel settore ospiti si festeggia!Posted by Empoli Fc Official on Sunday, 22 November 2015
In the second half the Fiorentina had a big change, the trainer Paulo Sousa realized that his line up was wrong, so Nikola Kalinic and Federico Bernardeschi were on to shake up the Viola. Fiorentina started to press the Blues in their half of the field and in just 8 minutes Kalinic scored twice. Fiorentina – Empoli 2-2 with 30 minutes to play. It was like a fist to the jaw. All was changed, Fiorentina wanted to win (and they had enough the time to do it). We lost the grip on the game. I sat deeply depressed <<We can’t lose this game, Goddamn!>> I cursed. By my side Eleonora bit her lips. Paride was like a statue.
Riccardo Saponara, our best player, was not having a good day and our trainer Marco Giampaolo called him out. Even our two strikers were tired and 'Big Mac' Maccarone was the second player to be changed. Marko Livaja remained on the ground but with his hands on his knees. The captain’s band (white with the french flag…) went to Lorenzo Tonelli. Tonelli was born in Florence, to a Florentine family but he has always played for Empoli since he was a child. Last year he scored for Empoli in the 1-1 draw at the Franchi stadium. Fiorentina encircled the Blues and it seemed that the third goal was to be only a question of minutes. Our defender Mario Rui had an injury and the changes were finished. We had to play the last minutes of the match with ten players.
I said to Eleonora how hard it would be for us who work in Florence if we lost the game… "I feel like the Italian immigrants who moved to Germany after World War II, when Italy played against West Germany in a World Cup!"
We suffered, and I didn’t stop to look at the watch. "It’s absurd to pay 25 Euros for something that you hope finish soon!!"… "We don’t deserve to lose this match" I continued to complain.
Even the Gods of Football agreed when Nikola Kalinic hit the bar. 5 minutes to be added. An eternity.
Then at last, the game finished. Fiorentina 2 – 2 Empoli; it was a draw and we celebrated it because we knew that Florentines were a sure bet to win this game. Viola with their 28 points lost their status as league leaders. The new table was on the video at the top of the stand: Napoli first, Fiorentina second.
SALUTATE LA CAPOLISTA! This time it was us who sang their chorus! What a beautiful derby!