In a continent buzzing with the World Cup, there is another soccer match being held in my neighborhood. Santa Croce will house the first of a few historic soccer matches today. The four sections of town (centering around the predominant churches) compete in a cross between rugby and soccer. Apparently this bloody rivalry started in the 1400s and was brought back to life in the 1930s. It begins with a parade where Florentines, dressed in Renaissance costumes, make their way to Santa Croce. The four teams from Santo Spirito (white), Santa Croce (blue), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green) take out their built up aggressions due to lost love, bad driving and prideful rights in a 3-game tournament over the next few weekends. The winner gets a cow — a living cow now; not so back in the day of course (well, it wasn't alive for long).
The locals have been discussing it and preparing me for the violence and excitement. I was ready. Thought about wearing blue to support my temporary home. Pictured myself in the metal stands that now jail the pedestrian view of Santa Croce. Yelling something — maybe profanity. Just another part of the massive surge of humanity, sport, and longing. Of course, much to my mother's relief, I have to work today. Oh well. I'll at least take in the fireworks that occur over the Arno after the last match. Nothing like fireworks.
Naturally, this traditional sport at first seemed odd to me. I'm a girl who doesn't understand American football, boxing, or anything too violent for no reason. (A cow can not be a reason.) But that was me. Now I feel like maybe struggle, history, and spectacle perhaps give allegiance to redemption. Maybe these fellows just need to feel like they did something, anything, to make their lives — and all of the petty indiscretions, bad behavior, lascivious longings — mean something. Just for a moment, for the cost of a bruise, blood, pain, make it (read existence) matter.
Or maybe they just like beating the crap out of each other. Who knows? But at least there are fireworks.