Monday, September 28, 2009

The Italians and Calcio

The history of Calcio officially stretches back to the 16th Century. However the roots of Calcio can be found in the Roman game of Harpastum.

The most famous game of Calcio took place on 17th February 1530 in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. At the time the entire city of Florence was under siege from the Medici.

Even though the siege was taking its toll, the people of Florence were determined to go ahead with the game in order to maintain the tradition of playing during the February carnival and to show contempt to the invading army.Musicians even played on the rooftops to enliven the game.

The result of the game was not recorded, maybe because the game was really about the city of Florence showing unity in the face of the Medici.

The game of Calcio itself was similar to rugby and a lot more violent than the game played today. Young men of exceptional strength, notably the aristocrats, played it on special occasions.
The game itself involved teams of 27 players who could use both their feet and hands to play the ball. Matches were generally played in the piazzas (city squares) of major cities. Goals were scored by throwing the ball over a designated spot at the opposing end of the field of play. The key rule in Calcio is that the ball is kept moving. If the ball stops, play is paused and resumed.

Calcio was an incredibly popular game in Italy and its influence even stretched to the Vatican where popes such as Pope Clement VII, Leo IX and Urban VIII were known to play occasionally.

In 1580 a gentleman called Giovanni Bardi published the first set of rules regarding Calcio, approximately three hundred years before the rules of association football were recorded.

Calcio is no longer played in Italy with the exception of the June festival in Florence, when exhibition matches are held.
However the name of Calcio lingers on as the Italian football league still uses the name in its official title.


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