Pioli: "Davide will always be with us"

Pioli: "Davide will always be with us"

11/03/2018 16:08

Stefano Pioli paid tribute to his players after they beat Benevento 1-0 on an emotional day at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday. It was the Viola’s first match since the tragic passing of Davide Astori, who was honoured by fans and players alike in moving scenes before kick-off.

"We had to get back to playing and it was right that we did so in front of our own fans," said Pioli, speaking after the game. "It was an emotional day to say the least. Just because we’ve played for the first time since doesn’t mean everything will go back to the way it was before, because that will never happen.

"The team was already united – thanks in large part to Davide – but now we are even more so. We want to continue doing all the things we started doing alongside Davide."

The final whistle sparked more emotion from the Fiorentina players, who were visibly exhausted after what has been a draining week.

"I have to say that before we returned to training on Tuesday, I wasn’t sure that playing would be the right decision," said Pioli. "But I encouraged them to speak to let their emotions out and they were the ones that started talking about the game. They’re young guys and this is unknown territory.

"Davide was central to everything we were doing. We didn’t do much physical work in training, but I think we all saw what we’d gone through on a mental level throughout the week. I expected it because they are young, sensitive players who loved Davide."

Pioli admitted that his team would need all the love and support of the Fiorentina faithful between now and the end of the season.

"When you’re working with young players, it’s obvious that working in a positive, passionate, supportive atmosphere is what you want," he said. "Today was a different thing entirely, of course, but we’ve never lacked passion and support from the fans. It’s up to us to continue what Davide started in his life and in his career, particularly here in Florence. We’re more united than ever.

"His professionalism, his calmness, his smile, his willingness… that’s what brought back this love, passion and unity to Fiorentina. Now it’s up to us. He’s passed on the baton. He’ll always be with us, but the responsibility now rests with us and we all have to ensure we keep moving in that direction – us, the owners, the club, the press, the fans. Everyone who loves Fiorentina now has the chance to prove it."

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