As adolescents we are often told by our by elders how fragile life can be and that every second should be lived to the fullest, for we may never know when it can all end.
These elders emboldened by their sense of wisdom knew the true value of life and as Calcio continue to mourn the loss of Fiorentina Captain Davide Astori at the age of 31, those aforementioned words could not be truer.
Italy as a country can be viewed through the prism of divisional politics that separate the poorer South from the richer North but as always in times of hardship, Italy manages to cling onto unity. A powerful tool of unity in the country is through football – capable of uniting people from the different social strata and affiliations in Italian society.
This was evidently highlighted when Juventus arrived for Astori’s funeral in Florence, and were given a raucous applause by the Fiorentina faithful who had always deemed the Bianconeri as their most despised rival.
It was a moment to behold given how football in the country is fiercely tribal: where old-fashioned values such as loyalty count for something.
Meanwhile, the Old Lady for their part led by example. Fresh from dumping Tottenham Hotspur out of the Champions League, in a game where it seemed the Italian Champions were playing more for their departed friend and Italian pride than a quarter-final spot; managed to shake off fatigue and attend the funeral.
Emotions ran deep and international audiences would have seen Giorgio Chiellini a few seconds away from bursting into tears in a post-interview after their Champions League tie in North London. The tears would come soon enough in the weekend in Serie A with Gianluigi Buffon sobbing as the soulful song of Lucio Dalla’s ‘Le Rondini’ was played, in the one minute of silence that was held before Juventus played Udinese.
On the other hand in AC Milan versus Genoa, Leonardo Bonucci and Mattia Perin were visibly emotional as they fought hard to keep a lid on their emotions with tears welling up in memory of their close friend. The Stadio Artemio Franchi, however, was the epicentre of emotions.
The stadium was engulfed by a purple hue as fans gave their departed captain one last hurrah. As the clock hit 13 minutes the ball was put out of play and fans, coaching staff and players alike began clapping.
Clouds soon darkened and rain began to fell, with Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj suggesting his good old friend was at work one last time, crystallising how much Astori as a person had touched the lives of countless people whom he met.
Italian football and its people for all their flaws can never be faulted for displaying solidarity in times of crisis. Maybe this is what has kept the nation afloat in times of turmoil, as thousands cramp into Florence to witness a person who has become an integral part of their social fabric.
Serie A as a still has giant strides to make in footballing and commercial terms. However it can also be argued it is the lack of commercial elements that has made such solidarity a mainstay in Italy, while proving football is more than a game in its purest form.
Also pure was Astori who was a role model for those wanting to make it in the game. His ever-present smile and leadership will be missed. More importantly he injected hope into people around the world that have lost faith in football’s ability to unite people and not divide them especially when in pursuit for commercial profit.
And for that we must thank him. Grazie Capitano. Ciao Davide.