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Ancient football game turns bloody

Ancient football played in Italy where physical contact is allowed was abandoned over the weekend as the encounter turned into a bloody fight.

Long before the short shorts of the 1970s and 80s, when questionable tackles were still given a pass, men played an ancient and brutal form of the beautiful game.

And in the beautiful Italian city of Florence, Calcio Storico Fiorentino, which translates as “Historic Florentine Football” and actively encourages violence, is still played.

However, one match this weekend – a semi-final between La Santa Croce Azzurri and Santo Spirito Bianchi – had to be abandoned after 15 minutes when it descended into a bloodbath.

According to Mirror, proceedings were called to a halt after a player punched the referee and refused to leave the pitch, sparking a 40-man brawl. Even riot police were called when the players couldn’t be separated.

Astonishing images show the players of La Santa Croce Azzurri (blue) Team clashing with those of Santo Spirito Bianchi (white) Team during the Calcio Storico Fiorentino semi-final, at Piazza Santa Croce, on Sunday.

An early form of football originating in the 1500s, Calcio Storico Fiorentino is a 27-a-side game where players are allowed to use both their feet and hands to move the ball.

They can fight using tactics such a punching, elbowing and all martial arts techniques, but kicks to the head are forbidden, as are fights of two or more against one.

It is normal for players to suffer serious injuries in the game
It is normal for players to suffer serious injuries in the game

Calcio Storico, which also comprises elements of rugby and wrestling, was not played for 200 years, until its revival in 1930.

The official rules were written in 1580 by Giovanni de Bardi, a count from Florence.

Originally, the game was played for rich aristocrats, and even popes were known to take part.

The playing field is a giant sandpit with a narrow slit constituting the goal running the width of each end.

A game lasts 50 minutes, and the winning team is the one who scores most points.

Four teams representing the neighbourhoods of Florence face each other in the first semi-finals.

The winners go to the final, played every year on June 24, the day of the patron saint of Florence, San Giovanni. The winner is honoured with a cow.

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