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Calcio Storico (aka Italian Prison Riot Rugby) Is Probably Not the Next Big Thing in Combat Sports


(Props: dbettazzi)

I don’t exactly know what I’m looking at here. Elias sent me this video today, and the best I can describe it is “Riot breaks out during a shirts vs. skins game of either rugby or capture the flag at a Renaissance Fair held at an Italian prison.”

Watch this video for five minutes and try to figure out the rules of the game. There are at least 50 players on the field at any given time, with players drifting in and out seemingly at random. The referees are the guys in the colorful shirts, I think. The object of the game is to take the ball into the end zone, like a normal sport, but — in a hilariously ghetto twist — there are no end zone markings or goal posts to speak of. You just throw the ball against the fence when you’ve made it all the way without being knocked out.

After some googling, I’ve learned that the video shows a game of calcio storico (“historic football”) or calcio fiorentino, a game that dates back to 16th century Italy. Here are some amazing facts from the wikipedia page:

- “In 1574 Henry III of France attended a game of “bridge fighting” put on in his honor during a visit to Venice; the king is recorded as saying: “Too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game.” Man, that is just classic Henry III of France.

- “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 from more than one player to attack an opponent. Any violation leads to being thrown out of the game.”

- “The Captain and Standard Bearer’s tent sits at the center of the goal net. They do not actively participate in the game, but can organize their teams and sometimes act as referees, mainly to calm down their players or to stop fights.”

- “The game starts when the Pallaio throws the ball towards the center line, followed by a small cannon firing.” LMAO!

- “The players try by any means necessary to get the ball into the opponents’ goal also called caccia. The teams change sides with every caccia scored. It’s important to shoot with precision, because every time a player misses the opposing team is awarded with half a caccia. The game ends after 50 minutes and the team which scored the most cacce wins. The prize is also interesting, because along with the Palio, the winning team receives a Chianina Cow.”

- “Matches last 50 minutes and are played on a field covered in sand, twice as long as it is wide. A white line divides the field into two identical squares, and a goal net runs the width of each end. Each team has 27 players with no substitutions. The teams are made up of four Datori indietro (goalkeepers), 3 Datori innanzi (fullbacks), 5 Sconciatori (halfbacks), 15 Innanzi o Corridori (forwards).”

Got it? Now go find an abandoned field, call up a few dozen of your friends, and organize your own game of calcio storico. Historic ball sports are in our DNA, bro.

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