The Tradition of a Most Dangerous Game

The Calcio Storico is an ancient form of football from 16th century Italy, which originated from the ancient Roman ‘harpastum’, and is played in teams of 27, using both feet and hands. Sucker-punches and kicks to the head are prohibited but headbutting, punching, elbowing, and choking are all allowed

Welcome to Calcio Storico, a centuries-old competition in Florence with very few rules and the sort of human wreckage generally associated with the gladiators. Dating back to 16th century Italy, today’s calcio storico (see photos from The Guardian here), or historic soccer, may be both the most violent form of soccer in the world. It is played only in Florence, Italy, where four 27-man teams representing four historic Florentine neighborhoods—Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito, and San Giovanni—face off to beat each other to a pulp, every June. Kicks to the head are forbidden. So are fights of two or more against one. Everything else goes, making the goal of moving a leather ball from one end of the field to another seem like a side note to the bloody proceedings.

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