Calcio: “Too small to be a war and too cruel to be a game”

Once widely played, the sport is thought to have originated in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence.

Known as “giuoco del calcio fiorentino” (“Florentine kick game”) there is little questioning the brutality of this team sport.

Upon seeing it played in 1574, King Henry III of France declared it wastoo small to be a war and too cruel to be a game.”

Florence fighting

The modern version of calcio allows tactics such as head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking but sucker punches and kicks to the head are banned. It is also prohibited for more than one player to attack an opponent. Any violation leads to being thrown out of the game.


Each team comprises 27 players. Goals (or cacce) are scored by throwing the ball over into the netting at the end of the field. A team is docked half a point if they miss the goal, a measure introduced to prevent teams from constantly taking “Hail Mary” shots.

Unbelievably, the prize for the winning team is a free dinner; the players earn no other compensation. This sport is all about the glory of representing your quarter, nothing more.


  • Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
  • Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
  • Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
  • San Giovanni / Verdi (Greens)

It’s difficult to describe this in any other way, it is effectively MMA with a football. The difference is found in the camaraderie of the teams and the implied respect shown amongst opposing players.

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