A year has gone by since the morning in which Davide Astori didn’t wake up. In which the world of Fiorentina and Italian football lost a man who put the love of living before anything else. A love he has transmitted to those who knew him, and to those who have discovered him since that tragic day.
The impact he made since his death is even larger than what he had achieved in life, influencing the Fiorentina fans, team and club. Here’s how the world of Fiorentina has changed since the March 4, 2018.
Before the passing of Astori, the Fiorentina fans were disillusioned by the club’s lack of ambition, and protested against the owners, Diego and Andrea Della Valle, on a weekly basis. The Curva Fiesole did not accept the decision of the owners to stop investing in the club, especially from January 2016 onwards.
The Della Valle brothers had decided to only spend the money received from selling players. The fans reacted by sometimes going on strike; refusing to chant, or spending entire chunks of matches shouting vitriol towards the owners.
That all changed. And not because everything should lose importance after someone’s death.
Astori’s passing didn’t shift the focus away from Fiorentina’s problems. It changed the focus. The owners seemed to have stopped caring. They stopped investing and seemed to lack the ambition to even get into Europe. And the fans’ only focus was to make it clear they wanted a change in ownership.
The tragedy of Astori reignited the belief that something bigger and better is possible. That Fiorentina have something to play for. The club directors have reignited talk of European football, restarted by building a young team that could grow together to be competitive again.
The fans have returned, filling up the Stadio Artemio Franchi on a weekly basis in the belief that results will come. Reaching the Coppa Italia semi-final after a 7-1 demolition of Roma is quite an achievement. Having over 33,000 fans at the Franchi for the first leg of the last-four tie against Atalanta showed just what it meant for the fans to believe a trophy can be won.
And it’s not just on the pitch, but also off the pitch. A message, an example, a belief beyond football, life is amazing and should be lived and loved. This is Astori’s message – football is not the only thing in life.
Astori loved life, and had an approach to it that should be taught and transmitted to all. Yes, there are important things, but take a relaxed approach, take a more moderate approach, and life will be easier, happier.
The fans have now a more relaxed approach towards results and towards team performances. They see that the players try as hard as they can, something that in the past decade wasn’t always true at Fiorentina – For example when the Viola almost got relegated in 2011, or in Paulo Sousa’s second season at the club, when the team more or less stopped playing in the final months.
Now, the players always fight for the club, always honour the memory of Astori by never giving up, by fighting until the very end on the pitch, no matter the opponent.
The players have banded together since that tragic day. The minute’s silence in the first home game since the tragedy was literally the most silent minute’s silence ever. Unreal. The game that followed was incredible, with the Fiorentina players on their knees after the final minute are the emblem of how difficult it was for them to play.
Milan Badelj crumbling to his knees is an image that is simply unforgettable. He is the only player who left the club in the summer transfer window, and considering Fiorentina had sold 12 players the previous year, it shows how this group of players have bonded.
Stefano Pioli was perfect as a coach as he kept the group together, and transformed the tragedy in a positive message for the players, in making Astori as symbol to follow forever. Astori was a captain everyone recognised as a leader, and Pioli was able to act as a psychologist and enter the minds of his players to keep them focussed on playing football, on getting results, on trying to get Fiorentina to the Europa League last season – Fiorentina won the six games following their captain’s death, almost managing a European spot.
This current group always fights until the very end, always believes in better, never gives up. It might be easy to say it, easy to do it. But look at how Fiorentina played before the March 4, 2018. The last minute draw against Inter, a 3-3 draw against Atalanta after going 2-0 down in the first 18 minutes, they got a last minute draw against Sampdoria, and the same against Sassuolo. Time ends when Astori says it ends.
After losing all their best players the previous summer – Federico Bernardeschi, Matias Vecino, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Borja Valero among others – the team, club and fans had all lost faith. Astori’s passing has reminded everyone what football is about, and what Fiorentina is about.
A club that is amongst the most supported in Italy, that has tradition in terms of results, having won two Scudetti, having come second on more than one occasion and having history rooted in the Calcio Storico Fiorentino, one of the precursors of the modern Beautiful Game.
The club reacted in a magnificent way, towards the media and outside world, and especially towards the family. Respect, beyond everything. They have helped his girlfriend and his daughter, and have shown the world how to honour the passing of a great man in the best possible way. Respecting privacy, bur neither overexposing it, nor forgetting it.
The owners have helped financially – the club guaranteed Astori’s daughter will have the chance to continue her education – and also psychologically, always being close to the family and making themselves useful when needed.
After seeing the reaction of Florence to the passing of Astori and the funeral, the owners understood what it meant for everyone. Despite still lacking the financial investment the fans would want, they have a renewed willingness to get results and return to regular European football. Fiorentina have to be ambitious, Astori would likely have wanted it this way.
The Coppa Italia semi-final remains a big achievement, and Fiorentina have a talented young side that could look at aiming for a European spot if the squad is completed with perhaps the midfielders needed.
Having signed Luis Muriel on loan in January – with the intention of making the deal permanent – and having already bought two young midfielders for next season – Hamed Junior Traorè from Empoli for €12 million, and Szymon Zurkowski from Górnik Zabrze for €3,7m – the club have shown they want the results to improve.
Fiorentina lost a unique man, but gained an angel that overlooks this world, and has made everyone at Fiorentina different during this year, and from that tragic day onwards. The fans are back to supporting in its purest form, and the club have a reignited willingness to invest and take Fiorentina to Europe once again.