The Gladiators of Calcio Storico

By David Airob, Jose Bautista & David Ramos | March 31, 2014

A n early form of football, the official rules of calcio storico fiorentino were first written in 1580 by Count Giovanni de’ Bardi. Originally played for rich aristocrats, even popes were known to play calcio at times.

The field is a giant sandpit with a narrow slit of a goal running the width of each end. Twenty-seven players make up each team, and the ball can be hit with feet or hands. Fight tactics such as punching, elbowing and martial arts techniques are all allowed, but kicks to the head are forbidden, as are fights of two or more against one.

Calcio Storico’s tournament is held the third week of June at the Piazza Santa Croce in the center of Florence. Four teams representing the neighborhoods of Florence face each other in the semifinals, with the winners going on to the final, played every year on June 24, the day of the patron saint of Florence, San Giovanni.

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David Airob works as staff photographer at “La Vanguardia” newspaper, where he was Chief Photo Editor from 2007 until 2010. His images have been published in international magazines such as Time, Paris Match and Der Spiegel.

José Bautista is a visual musician, sound designer, video artist and multimedia editor. He’s also the founder of KanseiSounds.

David Ramos is a freelance photojournalist based in Barcelona. He works as regular stringer for Getty Images covering sports and news around Spain and Europe.

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