| Football in "livery" (guild uniforms),
draws its ancient origins from games played by the Greeks and later by the Romans. "Sferomachia" was the name of the game played in Greece, which was basically a real fight between two teams of the same number of players who battled furiously for control of the ball.
"Arpasto" was a similar game
for the Romans, which was played on a sandy area. It was especially appreciated because, of all the gymnastic exercises geared for preparation for military service, it was considered the most successful at fostering the "harmonious" development of the young (strength,coordination, strategy, etc).
In Florence the football game has been played continuously for centuries, and there is little doubt that it is actually based on the "Arpasto", the game played by the legionaries of Roman "Florentia". In fact, the game reflects the battle order of the Roman army in its arrangement and movements. Young people of noble families with special physical strength were obligated to dedicate themselves to this rude play, in order to show off their stylish, sumptuous guild uniforms as well as to demonstrate their own strength and combat skills, thereby arousing the admiration of the noble ladies in attendance.
Perhaps the most memorable football match
was played on the 17th of February 1530 in Piazza Santa Croce, between the "whites" and the "greens", when Florence was under siege by Imperial troops. The game was played at this time not only to maintain the ancient tradition of playing ball during Carnival, but primarily as an affront to the occupying troops who believed Florence to be already exhausted and about to surrender.
The field of play is covered with earth
and divided in the center by a white line. Its shape is rectangular. On both ends its limits are marked by a net which hangs over a palisade and is stretched across the entire width of the field. The width of the playing field is exactly half of its length.The play, lasting 60 minutes, is carried out by two teams of 27 players each, composed of "datori indietro" (goal keepers), "datori innanzi" (full backs), "sconciatori" (half backs), and "innanzi" or "corridori" (attackers). The game begins when the Ball Bearer throws the ball from the center line of the camp, and the start is greeted by a culverin ( medium sized cannon ) shot.d cashot. From that moment on the players try, by any possible means or tricks, to throw the ball into the net of their adversary in order to score a goal.
The matches in livery were played without any interruption
until the end of the 18th century, when the tradition fell into disuse. Not until May 1930, during the fourth centenary of the siege of Florence and of Francesco Ferrucci's death, was the historical manifestation of Florentine football resurrected and restored to regular scheduling due to the passion and tenacity of the working committee established on this occasion.Since 1930 the matches are again regularly played inside the ancient walls of the city in the incomparable beauty of Piazza Signoria, except during times of war. The many-colored procession and the furious game are admired with enthusiasm by Florentine and foreign spectators alike.Three matches are played in June in Florence, on the days honoring the patron saint of the city. The intent is both to memorialize that famous game in 1530 during the siege of the city and to record a new and colorful page in the glorious history of the city.
The play, compared with contemporary sports,
is considered to be a mixture of wrestling, rugby, and football.
The offensive fighters have to pay particular attention to their accuracy in throwing the ball over the adversary's net, because a successful block of the ball by the defending player in his own corner results in a half point in favor of the defender.
The team with the highest number of points at the end of the game is the winner and the "Master of the Field" awards them the calf of the "palio".
The game is supervised by the referee judge, assisted by six signalmen and a commissary judge outside the field on a special stand.
The "Master of the Field", who surveys the regular course of the match, intervenes in the case of collective fights, reestablishes order and maintains discipline.