Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

PAPPAS | Campanilismo and the Beauty of Italian Football

I’ve talked extensively about the fervor that defines European football. We all love to. Us Americans are armchair experts when it comes to what it must feel like at a packed Camp Nou, especially when discussing the MLS — games which we know pale in comparison.

It’s entirely different to experience European football firsthand.

ACF Fiorentina’s match against Torino FC on Jan. 21 was crowded with passionate fans and crackling with energy. As a student studying abroad in Florence this semester, I have wholeheartedly adopted the Florentine team as my own. The club’s signature violet is now my favorite color. I think Luka Jović is arguably the best striker in the world. And Stadio Artemio Franchi is an architectural masterpiece. You get the gist.

While the 1950s and 1960s were the club’s glory days, Fiorentina is still one of only 15 European teams that have played in the finals of all three major European competitions — the Champions League in 1957, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in both 1961 and 1962 and the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) in 1990. It now sits firmly in the middle of the Serie A table.

Fiorentina is a historic club that is ingrained into the identity of the city. From the stores and endless kiosks that boast Fiorentina merch to the excitement that consumes the streets on a matchday, you can feel the city’s connection to the team just by walking around downtown Florence.

The Saturday night match was my first as an official fan of La Viola. We lost 1-0 to Torino, another midtable side. It was one of those games where we had the majority of the possession and 19 shots on goal to Torino’s nine, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. As a whole, the game was a little sloppier than I expected, and the pace a little slower. While Fiorentina dominated in the attacking third, the back line did not perform well. The two center backs were as flat as a pancake and got split more times than I could count. 

The play itself was dramatic. It was operatic, in a way. Both the Torino and Fiorentina players seemed frustrated with their own teammates. It felt akin to watching season one Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt battle it out on the field (if you don’t get this reference, please catch up). 

Twitter/@ACFFiorentina | Demi Pappas (MSB ’24) reflects on the transcendent experience of attending her first ACF Fiorentina match while studying abroad in Florence.

But I’m really not here to talk about the on-field play. The crowd’s performance stuck out to me more than the players’ ever could.

The atmosphere was insane. The stadium was mostly full, but roughly a third of it was packed to the brim with superfans chanting, waving flags and beating drums the entire match. They had a myriad of chants up their arsenal, all of which were in Italian and I couldn’t understand. A couple fans acted as maestros, leading the cheers, while the rest shouted and sang in perfect unison. They kept it up for the entire 90 minutes of regular time and throughout extra time, drowning out any noise other sections could make. It was an incredible sight to behold. 

It is a beautiful thing: undying loyalty to your hometown team. 

In America, we are selective. Our allegiances vary based on who’s on our fantasy football team, or whatever team LeBron James deigns to play for that year. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not excluding myself from this narrative. I can’t say I feel unequivocal love for all Houston teams the way Italians do for their hometown teams. I love the Astros, I’m ambivalent about the Rockets and I honestly don’t care for the Texans or the NFL itself after the Deshaun Watson debacle. I pick, choose and sway in my commitments. 

And that’s okay. Not only was I raised in the ultimate era of sports bandwagoning, but I’m obnoxiously American, and that won’t change after a couple months galavanting around Florence. 

The Italians have a word, “campanilismo.” There is no English equivalent, but it essentially means love and passion for one’s hometown. Pride for where you’ve come from and all that lies within the view of your local “campanile,” or bell tower. I’m witnessing an abundance of this feeling here, and I’m hoping to take some of it back home with me. 

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