Fans, flags, and flares!
To travel is to live, and as Avicii once said, “live a life you will remember” and that mindset follows me on every journey I take. Embrace the country you’re in, make plenty of friends, and take a chance at seeing something you will never forget! European football is unlike anything one can experience and the love and passion the city of Florence has for there team is much like that of a college town who loves their sports program (Go Gators!). As much as Americans enjoy thinking we are the rowdiest, craziest, sports loving fans in the world we are sadly unmatched when it comes to the power that football has over the European countries. The most disruptive items we sneak in is a metal flask to keep our drunk going throughout the game.
Sure… we have a deep passion for our team and a hatred for the opposing team but much of that falls apart after the game once you make it back to the bars. We mingle with opposing fans, have a beer and some lighthearted trash but it rarely sparks into full on riots and wars between the opposing fans and it doesn’t take an army of officers to make sure fans do not interact.
Entering the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, Italy you will be greeted by 45,000 screaming Italians and a beautiful soccer field, but the separation between opposing fans are like no other. Like caged animals, each section of the stadium and the field, is sectioned off by 8-foot-high glass with spikes on the top. Imagine being in such a hostel environment that the safety and separation between you and your rival fans involves think glass and spikes.
Assigned seats…? Nope. Flags and banners waving? Yes. And one more thing to spice up the stadium vibe while rooting on this team… FLARES! Throughout the game the rowdy Fiorentina fan section sets off flares and smoke bombs covering the stadium in a sea of smoke. Thousands of chanting Italians, flags flying, and the occasional sense of suffocation and claustrophobia what more can you ask for. Embrace it and jump into the sea of and if your lucky you might be able to hold a lite flare and join in the party.
Regardless of where you are attempt to go to a “football” game in Europe. It is like nothing you can imagine. Join the party, drink with the locals, and pray they score a goal!