In 16th century Italy, a sport called Calcio fiorentino was played mainly by rich aristocrats and even the Pope at times (namely Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII). It was extremely violent and combined elements of soccer, rugby and bare-knuckle fighting into one brutal sport.
Thought to be eliminated from the world of sports since the 17th century, it was revived in Florence, Italy in 1930. Played as a tournament in the 3rd week of June every year, each quadrant of the city provides one team to play. After two opening games, the two remaining teams play in the final. The championship game is played on June 24th, which is San Giovanni (St. John)’s Day, who happens to be the Patron Saint of Florence!
Calcio fiorentino, or calcio storico which means historic football, is played on a sand field that is twice as long as it is wide. At each end, a goal stretches the width of the field. The object of the game is to put the round ball in your opponents’ goal by any means necessary to do so.
Kicking, punching, head-butting, choking, and dropping ‘bows on mofos like it’s a habit is allowed. 27 men from each team are on the field and there are no substitutions. That’s a total of 54 men beating the crap out of each other for 50 minutes (that’s how long the game is).
To score a goal, which is called a caccia, just put the ball into the opponents’ net that spans the width of the field as mentioned, while everyone on the other team is beating on you without mercy. If you take a shot for the goal and you miss, the other team gets half a caccia. After the 50mins of insane brutality are over, whoever scored the most cacce wins.
While quite a few referees are present, they really only get involved if a fight or brawl breaks out. While you can smash the crap out of your opponent to score, you can’t just relentlessly beat them into the ground for a few minutes. The object of the game is to put the ball in the goal, not kill the people you’re playing against.
Sucker punches and kicks to the head are bannable offenses. It is also prohibited for more than one player to attack a single opponent on the other team. You also can’t go around biting people’s ears off. Sorry, Luis Suárez, this sport isn’t for you either!
And to the victors go the spoils. What do you win after an utterly savage game of calcio storico? Well… you win a cow! But not just any cow. A Chianina cow, which is the largest cattle breed in the world and also one of the oldest in existence. Their meat is delicious and used for luxurious dishes such as the bistecca alla fiorentina (a Florentine style beefsteak consisting of a T-Bone traditionally from a massive Chianina cow). Did somebody say steak? Sign me up!
Boss Tip: You can watch full Calcio fiorentino matches on YouTube!