“I will have to ask the family members, close friends and people in the Basilica to stay inside, so the people and city of Florence can give their last farewell to Davide.”
It was pure emotion. The fans, the people, the city accompanied Davide Astori’s soul on the stairway to heaven.
We were there. In the middle, with the Florentine people, with his people, with those who simply did not want to let go of their captain. Over 10,000 people gathered in Piazza Santa Croce for the funeral of Davide Astori, a final goodbye to the late Fiorentina captain. It is difficult to describe in words what it felt like to be there.
‘Tears’ is probably the best word.
A procession was held past the Stadio Artemio Franchi, to then lead Astori into the Basilica di Santa Croce, for the funeral procession. The last scarves and memoirs were laid down at the Franchi, to honour the memory of the captain. One said: ‘Ciao Davide, Riposa in Pace’, signed, ‘Vieri’. It was difficult.
We then moved to the heart of Santa Croce, the Piazza in which every year the Calcio Storico takes place, the first form of ‘football’ in history – if you ask a Florentine. The perfect place to bid farewell for a hero of modern day football.
People everywhere, to pay their homage. Kids, senior citizens, the entire city. Florence reunited in a square for their captain. Inside the Basilica the family, teammates, the whole club, directors, and representatives from each Serie A team. Even the Juventus players were applauded, as rivalries are put aside on a day like this.
Then came the speeches, that took our attention and turned our nerves to the most fragile they could be. Tears, again. The cardinal saying Astori had become ‘a Florentine’. Applause, crying, and tears. His brother, who sent a hug to Astori’s partner and baby, then stopped talking and started crying, and in support the people applauded to give him the support he deserved.
Milan Badelj then stepped up. Who would have thought. The man who, until now, had refused to sign a new deal with Fiorentina, and seemingly ready to leave in the summer. An amazing speech, for someone who wasn’t even speaking in his native language, talking directly to Davide in the present tense, never in the past.
“Before I say goodbye, here is an anecdote only the players know of. Davide, you used to be the first one in the morning at physiotherapy, and you would be the first one to turn on the light. This is what you are for us… the light”.
It was Impossible for anyone there not to cry. I couldn’t stop, as the applause of the people covered up Badelj’s final words and garnished his perfect farewell.
Afterwards, the speeches of the individual made way to the voices of the groups. The ultras took over the piazza with flags and smoke bombs ins purple, red and white (the colours of the city of Florence). The soundtrack became a chant after the other.
First the anthem of Fiorentina, then ‘C’è solo un capitano’ – There is only one captain – ‘Davide Astori uno di noi’ – One of our own – ‘Davide Astori vive con noi’, – He lives with us. A non stop mix of emotions, chants and applause. And of course, tears.
From a city that simply did not want to say goodbye to their captain. For a man gone too soon.