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JYA Journal—Notes From Abroad

A Fan of Football in Firenze

By Hannah Cohen ’09

JYA Journal with:

Maggie Mertens ’09

Cheri Hardy ’09

Anna Newman ’09

Britni Steingard ’09

Since September, living in Florence has been more of a self-discovery project than study abroad. And so, I am prepared to make a personal confession that I never foresaw: I, Hannah Cohen, am addicted to the Fiorentina, the professional soccer team here in Firenze.

Monday through Thursday, my academic schedule requires me to drag myself out of the house to be at the sede by 9:15 a.m. But come Friday morning, I rush to the bus before 9 a.m. You see, the Fiorentina plays Thursday nights, and I have to get the free newspapers in the morning, before they disappear, to see how they did.

Then I walk to the sede to have a long discourse with our assistant director about the previous night’s game. My daily routine includes checking email, the weather, the exchange rate—and the official Fiorentina Web site.

I have never before been a sports team fanatic, even when the Boston Red Sox were advancing in the playoffs. In the beginning, I went to a game because I felt I should. But from the first game, I started supporting the Viola, as the team is also known. The Fiorentina spirit slowly engulfed me.

One day, when the Fiorentina coach’s wife died, I jogged near the stadium and watched as fans continued to place flowers and notes of condolence next to the entrance. I admire [Cesare] Prandelli as a coach, as well as the attitude of the players. I and many other soccer critics see the Fiorentina is the highest upholder of fair play in their league in Italia. Recently, an opponent in the European league was shocked at the good rapport the Fiorentina expressed at the end of the match.

The Fiorentina recently played a crucial playoff game for the UEFA Cup. Once the game started on TV, I could not remove my eyes or shed the nervous butterflies in my stomach in order to continue eating the prosciutto or insalata that my signora had made.

The Fiorentina won with two incredible goals! You can imagine the ecstasy the entire city was feeling the next morning and the team was greeted by their fans, many of whom most likely skipped work to await their arrival at the airport.

Sundays are game days. On those days, I start at 11 a.m. with a long run around the stadium, where I observe all the vendors setting up their Viola merchandise and the food stands preparing hot dogs and panini. There are not many things I expect to be on time, like the buses in Florence and trains in general. However, soccer games always start promptly and the fans arrive more than two hours early.

On games days, after my run and breakfast, I walk to the stadium. At 2 p.m., I am in line to enter. Official attire includes my Viola scarf and garnet earrings that I wear for good luck. They are, coincidently, purple, the team color.

At lo Stadio ArtemIo Franchi, there are a few guidelines for soccer. Yelling and singing are required. Purple only, preferably in the form of a scarf. Arrive at least one hour ahead of the game, two if you are sitting in the curva. No leaving before the game is finished. They whistle instead of boo and any swear word/phrase is allowed within the stadium walls. All of this makes us sound like hooligans, but it is really just positive energy and supporting the team.

Before coming to Florence, I referred to soccer as “sucker” when my brothers talked about their games. I, after all, was a ballerina.

Life has changed.

I fell head over heals and became a devoted soccer fan, a tifosa. For some games, I am the only Smithie in the parterre maratona section. These soccer games are the only thing that make me feel part of Italian society—the energy, passion and dedication that Italians share, so now do I.

Now, I am somewhat of an official tifosa. I have memorized the Inno della Curva Fiesole and all the players’ last names and their positions, and I can tell from afar who is who. I have yet to memorize first names and all their numbers, and I am still learning all the chants.

And though I’ll be going through Viola withdrawal, I have all of next year back at Smith to continue my study of the team.


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