At this point the International Champions Cup (ICC) is over for Fiorentina. Our boys are now back home in Firenze preparing on a more familiar turf for the season just a month away. While finishing with one win and two losses, Fiorentina has a lot to take away from their whirlwind tour of the United States. For some lucky fans, the ICC was an opportunity to see their favorite team for the first time, for others a chance to once again get that feeling of being back at home in Firenze.
Although there were many people excited for Fioretina’s first trip back to the States in four years, our friends at the Viola Club of New York (VCNY) were perhaps the more so than most. This group of super fans went into planning mode the minute Rocco first announced his plans to join the ICC shortly after purchasing the club.
Most of the people in the VCNY are Fiorentini that moved to the States years ago. While most do live in the New York/New Jersey area, some have traveled as far as Houston, TX to join their friends and cheer on La Viola. Regardless of where they live now, this is a group of tight-knit friends that share a bond built around their love for a city and a club. A love that grew out of family traditions, stories and experiences, and despite their distance today from the games, has never diminished.
It’s 6:00 pm on Wednesday, July 24th; Fiorentina takes on Benfica inside of Red Bull Arena in 2 hours. After a month of planning and preparation, the VCNY now get to enjoy each other’s company and conversation inside a Red Bull Arena parking lot. As groups of people start walking up to the tailgate you see old friends reunite and new friendships being made. One thing is for sure, everyone here is decked out in their finest violas. You see jerseys of current players Chiesa and Benassi as well as legends like Batistuta, Hamrin, Mutu, Rossi and the late, great Davide Astori.
Would it be a Fiorentini tailgate without an All’antico Vinaio-like Tuscan focaccia sandwich? The group lines up to get their orders from Farinolio in Westfield, NJ, who makes truly delicious sandwiches. Afterwards they serve up an authentic schiacciata all’uva, which is a traditional grape-focaccia desert (the grapes used in this recipe are grapes harvested for wine making).
As it gets closer to game time, Fiorentina chants start picking up and flags are flown high; the Fiorentina pride is palpable. A few of the members get together for a group picture. The Fiorentina flag is displayed proudly in the middle. Excitement builds as this group is ready to head in to the arena and support their team.
While red outnumbered purple by a pretty large margin, section 127 where VCNY sat as a group was heard all across the stadium, making Red Bull Arena sound a little more like the Franchi. Just a few seats below, a single Juventus fan sat eating his popcorn as he was playfully serenaded with Fiorentina songs of “appreciation”. The members of VCNY clearly enjoyed themselves, getting out of this experience exactly what they needed, the feeling of home without leaving the country.
We asked a few of the members of VCNY to share their thoughts on what it has meant to them to have Fiorentina back in the United States for the International Champions Cup .
Lorenzo Banchi of New York, NY
“It’s great that Fiorentina and all their supporters from Firenze came here. It is a great feeling to see our home team play far from home. Seeing Italian soccer get the recognition that it deserves makes us feel very proud. Fiorentina was here four years ago and it was a great showcase for our club. I know I’m being biased, but it’s great to see them chosen to be here in our New York.”
Maurizio Gamberucci of Houston, TX
“What I miss the most from home is going to Fiorentina’s game in Firenze or following them away from home. Having Fiorentina playing in the States, that doesn’t happen very often. In a way, it helps us back to those feelings [of Firenze].
[On what is different under Commisso versus the Delle Valles.] “Rocco’s new Fiorentina looks more genuine and a bit nicely naïve, thanks to his Italian-American enthusiasm.”
Alessandro Sisto of New York, NY – President of VCNY
“As a native Fiorentino I can’t describe how it was to see my team in NYC. I had season tickets since I was a kid and moving here made me realize how close Fiorentina was to my life. Not being able to watch every game every Sunday made me very homesick. Luckily I stumbled upon the Viola Club of New York 9 years ago and everything was different. It was like having our own “little Firenze” in NYC, but something was still missing; the team, the stadium, the chants. Having all of that (in a reduced form) was like having it all…at least for 90 minutes.”
Roberto Consales of New Jersey
“It finally gives us a chance to feel a Franchi stadium again! I think we see that passion in Rocco that the Delle Valle brothers lost a few years ago, and we hope that he could finally make Fiorentina win something!”
I want to thank the Viola Club of New York for allowing us to meet with them, and for providing us with their thoughts. If you have a similar Fiorentina fan club, please let us at Viola Nation know. We would love to cover your group and put a spotlight on you, too. If you don’t have enough friends who are Fiorentina fans yet, do what I did. Take five of your close friends to a game and let the fans, team and environment do the selling for you.