Today one of Fiorentina’s greatest ever players and goal-scorers, Kurt Hamrin, celebrates his 86th birthday. It shows the love the man has for the city of Florence that he is still living there today. This may also have a lot to do with his wife Marianne, Kurt has told the story before of when she heard the news that he had been sold to AC Milan, after 9 years in Florence, Marianne broke down in tears.
Kurt’s career in Italy had started with Juventus in 1956, when Umberto Agnelli brought the young Swede from AIK where he had spent 6 years since the age of 15. He was already a Swedish international at this stage, and although his first Serie A season would be troubled by injury, he still managed a respectable 8 goals in 23 games. Not enough it would seem to impress his new club, who also brought in John Charles and Omar Sivori for the following season. All of this meant that Kurt was sent on loan to Padova.
At Padova he would link up with the legendary trainer Nereo Rocco (they would again work together at Milan). After his previous injury problems, it was at Padova that they helped Kurt by getting special boots made to measure. This certainly seemed to do the trick as Hamrin would become the clubs top scorer that season, 20 Serie A goals in 30 games. He definitely played a major part in taking the club to its highest ever finish in the top flight as they finished in third spot.
Juventus who had loaned Hamrin to Padova won the Scudetto that season, and the team directly behind them, and above Padova, was Fiorentina. And it was to the Viola that Agnelli decided to sell the Swedish striker, who would have the small matter of the World Cup in his home country to deal with before the next season started. With Italy not involved in the World Cup, Fiorentina fans would instead be able to see just what a great player they had bought, as his 4 goals would help Sweden go all the way to the final, where they would lose out to the mighty Brazil. A wise decision for the club to buy the player before the world got to see him in action.
When he arrived at Fiorentina after his World Cup exploits, one of his first games would be a Coppa Italia quarter-final clash with his old club Padova. This tournament had started while Kurt was in Sweden, but when he appeared he showed no mercy to his former team-mates as his goal helped Fiorentina to a 2-1 win in Florence. He also scored the 2 goals in the semi-final that would see off Bologna, his 2 late goals making the final score line 4-2. The Viola would lose out in the final in Roma to Lazio, and in that seasons Serie A they would eventually finish runners up to Milan. Hamrin would finish as the clubs top-scorer, with 26 goals in his 32 games.
The following season, 1959/60 and again Fiorentina would have to settle for second place, this time behind Juventus. Yet again, Hamrin would score 26 Serie A goals, and he had the pleasure of scoring the only goal when Fiorentina did manage to beat the league winners when the sides met in Florence in March. They would also finish as runners up to Juventus in the Coppa Italia that season.
1960/61 saw Fiorentina slip to a 7th place finish in Serie A, Hamrin this time scoring 14 goals, but still the clubs top scorer. They did however record another home win against the champions Juventus, this time a 3-0 score with Kurt again on the score sheet. While their league form may have been disappointing, this season would be remembered for their cup successes, both at home and in Europe.
In the Coppa Italia the side would gain revenge over Lazio, with Fiorentina having home advantage this time around, they recorded a 2-0 win. It was in the European Cup Winners Cup however where Kurt Hamrin would show his class. His 6 goals made him the competitions top scorer that season, and helped Fiorentina win a historic first ever European trophy, not only for the club, but also the first Italian side to do so. Hamrin would get the final goal of the two legged tie in Florence giving the Viola a 4-1 aggregate win over Glasgow Rangers.
The next season saw Hamrin again score 6 goals in the same European competition, and again taking the holders Fiorentina all the way to the final. His equalizing goal in that final in Glasgow against Atletico Madrid forced the tie to a replay. That replay wouldn’t take place until almost four months after the drawn match and in Stuttgart Fiorentina would lose out 3-0.
In the 1963/64 season, Hamrin again the clubs top scorer, and he scored 5 of his 19 league goals in one game. Away to Atalanta, Fiorentina and especially Kurt, would run riot in a 7-1 win. No other player has ever scored 5 goals in an away game in Serie A, just another record in this great players career.
Kurt would also help Fiorentina to another Coppa Italia victory in 1965/66, he scored 4 goals on the way to the final and added another goal in Rome to see the club defeat Catanzaro. The following season would be the last for ‘Little Bird’ at the club. He finished the season again as Fiorentina’s top scorer with 16 goals, 3 of which he scored on the opening day of the season in a 5-1 victory over Lazio. His final goal in the Viola jersey would come on May 14th 1967 at home to Atalanta, taking his Serie A total for the club to 150 goals. He is still the top scorer overall in the clubs history and his Serie A record was only overtaken by another club legend, Gabriela Batistuta, who finally took the record in his last ever game for the club.
The clubs decision to sell the club legend did not go down well with the fans. At 33 years old the club judged him out of place as they looked to a younger squad to bring glory to Florence. As his final season with the club showed however, he was certainly far from past his best, and the home fans would dearly have loved to see their hero end his career with Fiorentina. In the deal that saw their idol join AC Milan, the Brazilian striker Amarildo would join Fiorentina. He certainly never replaced Kurt Hamrin, neither in the fans hearts or on the score sheet.
Just like Batistuta, in that first season at his new club, under his former Padova manager Nereo Rocco, Hamrin would finally get his hands on a league title. He would also help the club to the Cup Winners Cup trophy, scoring the only 2 goals in the final to see off Hamburg. Not bad for a player seen as past his best by the club that he had given so much to. While Fiorentina would finally win their second Scudetto the following season, Hamrin would again taste glory with Milan. He only played 13 league games, but the club also won the European Cup, and Kurt was among the scorers when they beat Manchester United in the semi-final.
His final two seasons in Italy would see even fewer appearances and goals with Napoli, and he went on to finish his playing career back home in Stockholm with IFK. But it’s for his time, and goals, with Fiorentina that Kurt Hamrin will always be remembered, becoming a club legend and idol of the fans. After his retirement in 1972, there was only one city that Kurt and his wife could decide to call home, Florence.
That decision also had a lot to do with the couples children, who told their parents that if they moved to Sweden they would feel like foreigners, whereas in Florence they felt at home. But this is also a man who has said that when he thinks of football the first thing he sees is the Fiorentina jersey. He has also described his arrival in the city when he joined the club, arriving at night by car and seeing the city from above, a truly marvellous sight as he remembers it.
That city may have changed since his early days in Florence, where he remembers being able to drive into the city centre, to Piazza Signoria, but the love that Fiorentina fans everywhere have for Kurt Hamrin is something that will live on forever.
Kurt and Marianne celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary earlier this year, but today we all want to say a big Happy Birthday to our ‘Little Bird’.