‘Ciao Davide’: Fiorentina Bid Beautiful Farewell to Captain Astori

Serie A

It’s hard to remember a game more emotional than Fiorentina’s home game against Benevento.

It was the first match the Viola have played since the tragic passing of their captain, Davide Astori, at just 31 years-old. With last week’s fixtures postponed due to the news, this round of fixtures was always going to be difficult for fans and players across Italy and throughout the world.

As the news spread of Astori’s passing, touching tributes poured in, with the most poignant coming from those who knew him personally.

His teammate, Riccardo Saponara, who like Astori, came through the AC Milan youth system, posted a heartfelt farewell on his Instagram page. His ‘Oh captain, my captain’ tribute reflected the disbelief of a whole city at the news:

“Come back to Florence, they’re waiting for you to renew your contract and acknowledge all the good and the positivity that you bring to us on a daily basis. Get out of the damn room, we’ll be waiting for you tomorrow at training.”
Gianluigi Buffon’s post included an emotional and nostalgic message:

“You the best expression of an ancient, outdated world, in which values such as altruism, elegance, education and respect were the masters.”
Astori may have represented all the great and honourable traits of the past, but in the present his absence leaves a deep wound in a proud city. The Basilica di Santa Croce was transformed into a sea of purple as thousands turned out to say their respects to their captain.

From the Fiorentina squad and Juventus players, to elderly people who watched generations of players grow up and retire, Astori’s passing reverberated throughout the country, and they responded with a beautiful tribute.

Before Fiorentina’s match with Benevento, there was a uniquely eerie atmosphere at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The team wore Astori’s recently-retired number 13 shirt in the warm-up, and carried out a banner saying goodbye to the former Italian international. Fans alternated between emotional applause and a respectful silence so impeccably followed that the handshakes of the players could be heard in the crowd.

The football played was almost an afterthought.

In just the second match played between the two teams, a win for Fiorentina would mean leapfrogging Torino into ninth place. A near-miracle would be needed for the Viola to mount a charge for the top-six and secure a European spot. Given the recent events, most fans will be happy with a top-half finish and put this season behind them.

The game kicked off with a subdued atmosphere with purple and white balloons colouring the grey mood. In the 13th minute, paying respect to Astori’s shirt number, the ball was kicked out and an incredible choreograph was displayed in the crowd. An unforgettable sight and an appropriate send-off from the football world, which Astori dedicated his life to.

The home side should have taken the lead twice through Giovanni Simeone, bursting through on goal only to be denied by a smart stop from Christian Puggioni and then putting the second attempt just wide.

In the 25th minute, Fiorentina took a deserved lead through defender, Vitor Hugo, with the Brazilian rising highest from a Saponara cross, and celebrated by holding up a t-shirt dedicated to Astori. The crowd broke out in respected applause and muted cheers, understandably, it will take a while for the Fiorentina faithful to regain their full voice.

Benevento threatened to equalise late on with Massimo Coda’s header hitting the post, agonisingly close to securing a rare point for Serie A’s bottom-placed side. Marco Benassi then missed a sitter, ballooning his effort over after Milan Badelj cracked an effort off the bar, leaving an open goal.

In the end, 1-0 was probably the right scoreline for a Fiorentina side who were, for obvious reasons, not at their best and a Benevento side who are all-but relegated. This match, however, is not likely to be remembered for the football played, but the touching and beautiful tributes paid by Fiorentina which have immortalised their captain.