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Florence is the birthplace of football in Italy. It is where the sport took shape and gained the name ‘calcio’

It all began with ‘Calcio Fiorentino’ (Florentine football), which spread in the late 1400s and developed over the following centuries. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century when English football started to influence the Florentine pioneers of the modern game. In 1898, Florence Football Club was born, an event that places the ancient and noble origins of calcio in Florence.

In 1909, Florence Football Club was no longer mentioned in local records and, towards the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1913, two of the oldest and most illustrious people’s sporting associations formed their own football teams: Club Sportivo Firenze, a cycling organisation founded in 1870, and Palestra Ginnastica Fiorentina Libertas, a gymnastics society founded in 1877.

After the Great War, which put a halt to any football whatsoever, a fierce rivalry built up between the two squads until 29 August 1926 when the Marquis Luigi Ridolfi Vay da Verrazzano, the President of Club Sportivo Firenze with powerful political influence, persuaded the two clubs to merge their respective football teams into the Associazione Fiorentina del Calcio (the Fiorentina Football Association). Fiorentina was born.
The newly created Fiorentina were entered into the First Division, the second tier of Italian football behind the National Division. The leagues were a messy affair and the season only started after all teams satisfied the requirements of the “Carta di Viareggio”, the document placing the game under the rule of the fascist regime.

The first ‘Direttore Tecnico’ (Technical Director) was Mr. Gino Agostini. Fiorentina inherited their home ground (the stadium in Via Bellini), the Hungarian coach Károly Csapkay and the majority of the squad’s players from P.G.F. Libertas. A noticeable acquisition was the Hungarian defender Arpad Postainer, who was the first foreigner to play for Fiorentina.

The outstanding player in that first official season was Bolteni; he scored 11 times, including Fiorentina’s first ever official goal on 3 October 1926 against Pisa at the Via Bellini Stadium. Fiorentina won the match 3-1.

The team finished sixth in the league that season, and were runners-up in the Arpinati Cup. Fiorentina were the biancorossi (their kit was red and white) and in that first season they also played their first match against foreign opposition, winning 3-1 against F.C. Lugano from Switzerland.

The following year, Messinese did not enter a team meaning that the Gigliati were entered into Group D of the First Division, which was made up of teams from the central and southern regions of Italy. Despite the gruelling travel required for away fixtures, the team came second and, thanks to changes made to the league system by the Federal Authorities, Fiorentina were promoted to the first tier of Italian football, the National Division. However, the team was not ready to compete at that level and were relegated to the newly-named Serie B after one season.

On 6 October 1929, Fiorentina inaugurated their new purple kit for the 1929-30 Serie B season. A noticeable decline in team performance caused the club to hire the coaching services of Gyula Feldmann (nicknamed “Sor Giulio”), who brought the team back to the upper reaches of the league table.

The summer of 1930 brought reinforcements to the team, which led to a joint-first finish alongside Bari the following season.
In 1931, Fiorentina reached the peak of the national game thanks to the team’s beautiful style of football, a wonderful stadium and a group of star players. Pedro Petrone stands out among the best: the Uruguayan top goalscorer notched 25 in 27 games taking Fiorentina to fourth in the table.

On 13 September 1931, a friendly match against Admira Vienna (0-1) inaugurated the Stadio Giovanni Berta. Before the match, the ball was thrown down from the sky by the famous Florentine aviator Vasco Magrini whilst piloting his own biplane, the “Ciabatta”, especially for the occasion.

The 22 November 1931 saw the “Canzone Viola”, Fiorentina’s anthem, played for the first ever time before the home game against Roma. The anthem was composed by Marcello Manni and Marco Vinicio, and made timeless by Narciso Parigi.

Over the following seasons, Fiorentina began to restructure to compete at the higher levels. If, on one hand, new arrivals such as Carlos Gringa, Vincenzo Sarni and Germano Antonioli strengthened the club, on the other, Petrone, after having punished the then league leaders and Champions of Italy Juventus with a headed goal, left the club after an altercation with coaching staff.

A fourth place finish gave Rady, who had replaced Fellsner, coaching duties for the following season, though the subsequent sixth place finish did not please the fans.

Guido Ara succeeded him and led Fiorentina to first place at the turn of the year. Only a serious injury to Arrigo Morselli stopped the Gigliati from going all the way, leaving them in third place at the end of the season and qualification for the Mitropa Cup.

The next few years were marked by a significant decline in quality. In the coaching staff, Guido Ara was replaced by Ottavio Baccani, before Ferenc Molnár succeeded him and ended this first significant stage of AC Fiorentina’s existence with a bitter relegation to Serie B.
In 1939, Fiorentina were promoted back to Serie A under the leadership of Coach Rudolf Soutchek and the much strengthened side reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia by beating A.C. Milan 5-0 and Lazio 4-1. In the semis, two goals from Celoria and a third from Baldini saw Fiorentina overcome Juventus to set up a final against Genova 1893 Circolo del Calcio. On 16 June 1940, at Florence’s Stadio Giovanni Berta, Celoria’s 26th minute strike put an end to the initial skirmishes, and Griffanti kept the score at 1-0 with a little less than ten minutes remaining by blocking a shot from Neri. From that afternoon, Fiorentina’s history would always contain a moment of triumph.

Italy went to war on 10 June 1940. Meanwhile, Fiorentina quietly marched on in the league, led by Romeo Menti and supported by Giuseppe Geigerle and Ferruccio Valcareggi, who would be remembered for his elegant style, fair-play and sportsmanship on the field. The Menti-Valcareggi partnership scored some 25 goals and under coach Giuseppe Galluzzi took Fiorentina to a third place finish, and a satisfying 13 goals in three matches against Juventus in Serie A and Coppa Italia – a record.

Menti left Fiorentina for Torino the following season, and the Viola ended in a disappointing sixth place. In the meantime, the war was to take some of the Gigliati’s players for good. The following players lost their lives in the Second World War: Armando Frigo – shot in 1943; Bruno Neri – fallen in battle in 1944; Vittorio Staccione – died in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in 1945.

With travel difficult and the stadium being out of action (it was being used by the Allied forces), Fiorentina were forced to play unofficial friendly matches during the 1943-44 season, including a game against representatives of the Allied forces. This continued until, in the 1944-45 season, the Local Commission for the Reorganisation of Sport in Florence, presided over by Mr. Arrigo Paganelli (Fiorentina’s President), launched the Mixed Regional Championship, also called the Wartime Tuscan Championship. Fiorentina would only lose the first game of the tournament against the Italian Communist Youth Movement.
The journey to the first Scudetto began with an injury to Claudio Bizzarri, which turned into a priceless opportunity for Maurilio Prini.

After a considerable victory over Padova, Fiorentina recorded their first away win of the season against Juventus with a 4-0 triumph in Turin. The game saw Virgili and Julinho hone their partnership and Ardico Magnini score a memorable goal, blasting an unstoppable strike into the net after a 70-metre solo run.

A draw with Vicenza put Fiorentina in poll position, albeit on equal points with Inter until a 2-0 win against Torino pushed the Viola into first outright. They would not be caught.

The decisive win came at the San Siro, with goals from Montuori and Virgili in the space of a minute; Fiorentina proved to be superior to Milan in every department despite missing star-player Julinho. The Rossoneri had goalkeeper Buffon to thank for keeping the score-line down.

On New Year’s Eve, Fiorentina beat Roma 4-2 in a televised game from the Stadio Olimpico to be top of the table at the turn of the year.

The second half of the season was one unstoppable march to the top, with goals galore and victories against every opposition until a 1-1 draw on 6 May 1956 in Trieste. A goal from Julinho, his sixth and final of the season, clinched a much-deserved first Scudetto for Fiorentina.

Here is the historic side that, under Coach Fulvio Bernardini, brought home the Viola’s first Italian league title: Sarti, Magnini, Cervato, Chiappella, Rosetta, Segato, Julinho, Gratton, Virgili, Montuori, Prini; and Toros, Orzan, Bizzari, Mazza, Bartoli, Carpanesi, and Scaramucci in reserve.
The Grasshoppers Cup was a league-based competition, with home and away matches held over five years between 1952 and 1957; it was the first time in the post-war period that representatives from six different countries breathed life into a ‘European’ tournament. Before the Second World War, only the Mitropa Cup had attracted teams from so many different European countries, but it was the competition organised by the Swiss club that deserves the credit for shifting the focal point of European football to the west. It was the predecessor of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the first edition of which was held between 1955-58)

The conclusion of the long competition on 8 May 1957 saw the Gigliati win their first trophy in an international tournament.
The teams finished in the following order (behind the victorious Viola, of course): O.G.C. Nice, N.K. Dinamo Zagreb, F.K. Austria Vienna, F.C. Schalke 04 and Grasshopper-Club Zürich.

In the meantime, Fiorentina’s first Italian league title allowed them to compete in the second edition of the European Cup. This time around the competition was even more successful as even the founding fathers of modern football, the English, who were absent in the first edition, decided to participate, selecting Manchester United F.C as their representative. After eliminating the Swedish F.C. Norrköping, the Swiss champions Grasshopper Club Zürich, and then the Yugoslavian FK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade), Fiorentina became the first Italian side to play in a European Cup final.

On 30 May 1957, Fiorentina played the most important game of their history against Real Madrid C.F. in front of 125,000 spectators at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Viola played well but lost 2-0. A howler from referee Leo Horn cost them; he awarded the Spanish side a penalty 30 minutes from the end for a foul by Magnini that was clearly outside the penalty box.
The following day, the local press were highly complementary of the efforts from the Italian Champions, the team proving itself worthy of such a grand occasion.
Injuries hampered Fiorentina’s title challenge the year after their Scudetto success and the team finished 6 points behind Milan in second place.
A year later, Fiorentina proved their strength yet again and went toe-to-toe with Juventus, the eventual league winners. Too many draws left the Viola in second once more. In 1958 Lajos Czeizler replaced Fulvio Bernardini. Czeizler was an enthusiast of attacking football who gave the impetus to one of the most spectacular sides in Italian football’s history; the team scored 95 goals in one season, courtesy of Hamrin, Lojacono, Montuori and Petris. Fiorentina were above the Rossoneri with six games remaining, but an unexpected defeat against Spal gave Milan the advantage, leaving the Viola in second place.

Then it was the turn of Argentine coach Luis Carniglia, who joined from Real Madrid. The team lost one of its stars, Sergio Cervato, to Juventus, and it was the Old Lady who pipped Fiorentina to the title, with the Viola coming second for a fourth consecutive season. That season was the end of the most exciting and consistent period in Fiorentina’s history.

On 5 June 1960, the Mitropa Organising Committee, coordinating with the National Football Federations, officially published the schedule for the first edition of the Cup Winners Cup. The ten representatives came from the main European footballing nations: Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, England, Hungary, Italy, Scotland, Switzerland, West Germany and Yugoslavia.

Fiorentina were the Italian representatives that season, qualifying as Coppa Italia finalists because winners Juventus had been entered into the European Cup, and they reached the final against Scottish side Glasgow Rangers. Despite the onslaught by the home side, Luigi Milan’s brace gave Fiorentina a 2-0 advantage in the first leg at Ibrox on 17 May. In the return fixture in Florence on 27 May 1961, Fiorentina won 2-1 thanks to goals from Milan and Hamrin, winning the first Cup Winners Cup in their history.

A few days later on 11 June, Fiorentina beat Lazio 2-0 in the final of the Coppa Italia, thanks to goals from Petris and Luigi Milan. Thus, Fiorentina finished the season with two prestigious trophies in their display cabinet, having played high-quality football under the wise, offensively-minded coach, Nándor Hidegkuti. The only sour note that year was Miguel Angel Montuori’s forced retirement at 28 due to injury.
Fiorentina then began a process of rejuvenating its squad, and it was this young side that would clinch the club’s second Scudetto. There were two key protagonists in this period: Kurt Hamrin and Giuseppe Chiappella.
The first year of Ferruccio Valcareggi’s reign, 1962, ended in disappointment as Fiorentina couldn’t win a second successive Cup Winners Cup.
However, the turn around by the technical staff began in late October 1963 when, due to quite a grim club situation, Giuseppe Chiappella took over from the future Head Coach of the Italian national side and led the team to fourth in the league. In the following season, the disappointment from being eliminated from the Coppa Italia and the Fairs Cup was eased by the young Viola side’s fourth place finish.

But the 1965-66 season was one to remember. In fact, the Viola added two pieces of silverware to the trophy cabinet: the Coppa Italia and the Mitropa Cup.
Chiappella’s Fiorentina officially began their season at the end of August 1965, with matches in the Coppa Italia; Genoa, Palermo and Catania were the first opponents easily brushed aside, and then even Milan couldn’t get past the Viola.
The final obstacle before the final of the Coppa Italia was Internazionale, Helenio Herrera’s World Club Champions. Right at the death, with the score-line at 1-1 and extra-time looming, Hamrin converted a cross from Castelletti. After a five year wait, Fiorentina could finally play in their fifth Coppa Italia final.
The team’s opponents? Catanzaro. The eleven players that secured Fiorentina’s third Coppa Italia at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico were: Albertosi, Pirovano, Rogora, Bertini, Ferrante, Brizi, Hamrin, Merlo, Brugnera, De Sisti, and Chiarugi. But the season was not yet finished, because on 19 June 1966 Fiorentina finally won the coveted Mitropa Cup by defeating Jednota Trenčín in the final.

The 1966-67 season was mediocre, remembered for the loss of Kurt Hamrin to Milan in exchange for Amarildo. The laborious process of developing such a young squad led to elimination from the Coppa Italia and the Fairs Cup. President Nello Baglini removed Chiappella from duty, entrusting the team to Bassi and Ferrero, the former as Coach, the latter as Technical Director. Fiorentina finished in fourth place, amid much finger-pointing but great expectation for the future.
The Scudetto-winning season of 1968-69 started with an away victory at the Stadio Olimpico against Helenio Herrera’s Roma. After a series of draws, sizeable victories and a single defeat against Bologna, a victory at the San Siro against Inter on 24 November marked the beginning of a sprint to a second Scudetto. Consecutive victories were only broken up by a draw against Torino, before ending the year on another win, against Palermo, bouncing back from a Fairs Cup thrashing at the hands of Vitória Setubal in Lisbon. Fiorentina battled it out at the top with Cagliari, managing a draw when the two teams faced each other. On match-day 21, the Viola defeated Vicenza and stormed ahead into first place. A win against Napoli gave Fiorentina a two-point advantage at the top with only two games to go. The penultimate game of the season saw the Viola make it a three-point gap, after a strike by Ghiarugi gave Fiorentina the points against Juventus in Turin.

And so, thirteen years after the first, a second Scudetto was won! The players would go down in history as the famous ‘Fiorentina Ye-Ye’ and celebrated by the stands with the fifteen thousand fans after the game. The winning side arrived back late into a city covered in violet; the stars were: Chiarugi, De Sisti, Amarildo, Esposito, Merlo, Maraschi, Ferrante, Brizi, Rizzo, Superchi, Rogora, Mancin and Coach Bruno Pesaola.
With the Scudetto badge sewn onto their kit, the Fiorentina of 1969-70 had an inconsistent season with a fourth place finish and qualification for the Fairs Cup. The following season, President Baglini gave the coaching responsibilities to the “magician from Turi”, Oronzo Pugliese, and his Fiorentina avoided relegation to Serie B on goal difference, sending Foggia down.

The new President Ugolini called on Coach Nils Liedholm, who recovered some of the spirit of ’69 and brought in some fresh faces to the side, ending the 1971-72 season on equal points with fifth place Inter and a UEFA Cup spot.

A fourth place finish at the end of the 1972-73 season, level on points with Inter yet again, led to another season in the UEFA Cup. It was also the season of Giancarlo Antognoni’s debut against Verona. The 18-year-old’s quality shone through any nerves that day, as Fiorentina saw one of their most important players take his first step.

Radice replaced Liedholm and implemented an aggressive and captivating style, but inexperience and a lack of physical fitness for such vigorous football led to a collapse in results and a sixth place finish. Nereo Rocco came in for Radice, but he had to do without De Sisti who was sold to Roma and manage a difficult bunch of players; the team finished in eighth, and the coach took over at Milan leaving his assistant Mario Mazzoni the task of guiding the team through the final stages of the 1974-75 Coppa Italia.

After beating Roma, Mazzoni’s youngsters travelled to the Stadio Olimpico for the final of the Coppa Italia against A.C. Milan. The starting eleven on 28 June were: Superchi; Beatrice, Roggi; Guerini, Pellegrini, Della Martira; Caso, Merlo, Casarsa, Antognoni and Desolati. The Viola won 3-2 and Casarsa, Guerini and Rosi got themselves onto the scoresheet. Fiorentina, in an all-white kit and with a man up, almost scored a fourth as the young Gigliati added a fourth Coppa Italia title to the club’s collection, despite Milan being firm favourites.

The victory qualified Fiorentina to participate in the Anglo-Italian League Cup, contested between the Italian and English winners of their countries’ respective cup competition. Fiorentina defeated the mighty West Ham in December 1975 with a goal from Guerini in the first leg and a goal from Speggiorin in the return game. Mazzoni’s lads brought the cup back to Italy, where it had not been since Bologna’s success in 1970.

The triumphs were followed by a period of uncertainty, as Fiorentina narrowly avoided the drop at the end of 1975-76.

The 1976-77 season was dominated by the teams from Turin, as Juventus amassed a record number of points. That year, Mazzoni’s side finished in an excellent third place and qualified for the UEFA Cup. In 1977-78 it was only on the last day of the season that Fiorentina managed to claw their way out of the drop zone. Beppe Chiappella was put in the dugout, and President Ugolini resigned to be replaced by Rodolfo Melloni.

Paolo Carosi was Coach for the 1978-79 season. A good start was followed by eleven games without a win but Fiorentina fought back to finish on level points with sixth place Napoli.

The 1979/80 season brought the sad death of President Melloni. Enrico Martellini took over the presidential duties and implemented the club’s first management team in its history, the Pontello family. That year’s match-fixing scandal, the so-called ‘Totonero’, did not involve any of the club’s staff or players. The team was not up to its best and finished in sixth.
The summer of 1980 saw the arrival of the Pontello family at the club’s helm and foreign players allowed back in the Italian league system. After the terrible years under Carosi, Giancarlo De Sisti, or ‘Picchio’, became Coach and just missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

The controversies over the new kit and new badge chosen by the club were allayed by a spending spree that brought in: Graziani, Pecci, Monelli, Massaro, Cuccureddu e Vierchowod. The journey in the championship was upset by a serious injury to captain Antognoni against Genoa and ended in controversial fashion; on the final day of the season, a draw against Cagliari and a Juventus victory against Catanzaro saw the chance of a playoff game for the Serie A title fade, all thanks to a contentious refereeing decision.
Passarella came in for Vierchowod but the lack of signings cost dearly with elimination from the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup, and a lacklustre league campaign that left the Viola just outside the European places.

Thanks to the work of Italo Allodi, who joined the club in 1982 to oversee transfer dealings, Fiorentina once again reached the upper end of the league table; however, a second injury to captain Antognoni crushed the players’ belief that they could win the title. The Viola finished third and qualified for the UEFA Cup.

The Brazilian star Sócrates arrived the following year for the 1984-85 season, but fitting him into the side proved difficult and this, along with De Sisti’s unwillingness to change the system for him and the loss of Antognini, shattered hopes; defeat against Verona in the league and elimination from the UEFA Cup were the beginning of a decline. The owners replaced De Sisti with Ferruccio Valcareggi but the season was already a lost cause.

Scarred by a negative and costly experience with Sócrates, the new General Director Claudio Nassi decided to focus on youth. Aldo Agroppi filled the Coach’s role for the 1985-86 season and led the team to UEFA Cup qualification after thrilling victories against Sampdoria (1-0), A.C. Milan (2-0) and Inter (3-0).

After Ranieri Pontello’s resignation, the new President Pier Cesare Baretti embarked on a spending spree, signing: Ramon Angel Diaz, Alberto Di Chiara, Marco Landucci and former player Roberto Galbiati. Eugenio Bersellini, a coach with proven experience, was chosen to lead the side but was unable to improve the season’s results. The 1986-87 season was also the beginning of one of Italian football’s great talents. In between Antognoni and Rui Costa, the great tradition of Fiorentina’s number 10 shirt was carried on by a young prodigy who put away penalties with the calmness of a thirty year old pro: Roberto Baggio. Born in 1967, Baggio would make his mark at Fiorentina despite numerous injuries that hampered the start of his career.

Baggio was injured when he joined the club in 1985; he eventually made his viola debut in the last 15 minutes of the Inter v Fiorentina game in the 1986-87 season. His first goal in Serie A came at the Stadio San Paolo, which was already celebrating a first Scudetto for Maradona’s Napoli. The great Antognoni stepped aside to allow the injury-plagued, young talent to strike a free-kick into the net from the edge of the area.

Unfortunately, the season was a poor one. Fiorentina were eliminated from the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup in September, and their results were even worse in the league: a sole victory in the first eight matches immediately told fans what to expect that season. Giancarlo Antognoni’s come back didn’t bring the necessary backbone to change course and Roberto Baggio’s forced absence with a knee injury at the start of the season didn’t help matters.

Eriksson’s two-year reign between 1987 and 1989 brought gradual improvements to the team’s style of play and varying results. Progress in the Coppa Italia and a good start to the season were overshadowed by the plane crash in which President Pier Cesare Baretti lost his life. The team then lost their way and finished in eighth. Whilst bulldozers began to destroy Italy’s most beautiful stadium in view of the 1990 World Cup, Fiorentina began the season with Renzo Righetti as President and with new signings Stefano Borgonovo, Enrico Cucchi and Carlos Dunga. The season was an improvement on the last: a solid central midfield and goals galore from Baggio and Borgonovo up top delighted fans and gained qualification for the UEFA Cup.

The 1989-90 season was another watershed moment for Italian football and Fiorentina. In Serie A, the team narrowly avoided relegation but reached the UEFA Cup final with some fantastic football. The joy of the latter was in stark contrast to the explosion of rage at the end of the season following the sale of Roberto Baggio to Juventus and the sale of the club to Cecchi-Gori. Bruno Giorgi took the helm initially. However, his poor results in domestic competitions caused the club to try and save what they could by appointing Francesco Graziani for the remaining two months of the season. The league’s objective was achieved but disappointment in the UEFA Cup final was too much to take for the viola fans as Juventus won the first leg 3-1 and clinched the cup with a 0-0 draw at home in the return fixture.
In 1990, Mario and Vittorio Cecchi Gori, having just bought the club from the Pontello family, found themselves outside of the transfer window, with a coach chosen by their predecessors (Sebastião Lazaroni, former manager of the Seleção) and a squad that needed rebuilding. The high of beating Juventus at the Franchi did not save a season to forget, with the club finishing in the bottom half of the table.

The first Cecchi Gori spending spree came in the summer of 1991, bringing in: Mazinho, Pietro Maiellaro, Marco Branca and Gabriel Omar Batistuta, fresh from Argentina’s triumph and his Golden Boot in the Copa America. The start of a gradual climb was not good enough to save Lazaroni’s job, nor that of his successor Gigi Radice who, in a topsy-turvy season, was unable to achieve anything more than a mediocre finish in the table.

The big-name signings joined Fiorentina in 1992: Germany’s Stefan Effemberg, Denmark’s Brian Laudrup, Fabrizio Di Mauro, Daniele Carnasciali, Francesco Baiano, and Gianluca Luppi. Despite an open, flowing and attacking football in the first part of the season, Fiorentina were humiliated by a very well-equipped Milan team who put seven past the Viola at the Franchi. Vittorio Cecchi Gori then took the decision to remove Gigi Radice from his post and appoint Aldo Agroppi. That was the beginning of the end: mediocre performances led to an unexpected relegation after more than fifty years in Serie A.

The journey towards immediate promotion to Serie A was entrusted to the Rome-born Claudio Ranieri and, after the sad passing of Mario Cecchi Gori and son Vittorio’s appointment at the helm of the club, 1993-94 was a landmark season that brought the club back to Serie A. The following year belonged to Gabriel Omar Batistuta and saw the arrival of Manuel Rui Costa. The Argentine’s potency was undeniable: at the end of the season ‘Batigol’ was top goalscorer with 26. Nevertheless, after a rather promising start to the season, results went from one extreme to the next, delighting and depressing fans in equal measure. The tenth place finish was to no-one’s liking but there was a feeling that with such stars as Batistuta, Toldo, Rui Costa and Baiano, the jump of quality was just around the corner.

The first success for Vittorio Cecchi Gori and Claudio Ranieri was the 1995-96 Coppa Italia. The Viola thrashed a tricky Palermo in the quarters and then beat Inter twice in the semis – 3-1 and 1-0. On 2 May 1996, in torrential rain, Fiorentina faced Atalanta in Florence in the first leg of the Coppa Italia final. The Viola gained the advantage thanks to the ever-present Batistuta, who beat Ferron with a wonder strike from the edge of the area. Fiorentina built on that good result with the perfect game in Bergamo on Saturday 18 May 1996. In the second half, goals from Lorenzo Amoruso and Batistuta handed the trophy to the best team over the two legs. A fifth Coppa Italia for Fiorentina was celebrated by the travelling fans in Bergamo and, incredibly, into the night at the Franchi, where fans had watched the match on a giant screen and waited for hours for the team’s return.

The team ended the tournament with an inimitable record: a clean sweep of eight wins out of eight, five of which were away from home, with 17 goals scored and only 3 conceded.

But there was one more roll of the dice. On Sunday 25 August 1996, the San Siro hosted the Italian Super Cup between the champions of Italy, A.C. Milan, and the winners of the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina. Despite notable absences (Baiano, Padalino, Serena), Fiorentina were tremendous and Batistuta capitalised on a nervous Franco Baresi to make it 1-0 after 12 minutes. The Rossoneri pulled one back through Savićević but Batistuta dealt the opposition the lethal blow in the second half. Another sought-after prize entered Fiorentina’s gleaming trophy cabinet.
Ranieri left the club after losing the Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Barcelona and he was replaced in the dugout by Alberto Malesani. The latter’s hostile relationship with Vittorio Cecchi Gori immediately dominated newspaper columns and it finally cracked when Fiorentina signed one of the most extraordinary players of all time for his genius and recklessness: Brazil’s Edmundo. Despite being popular with fans, the majority of the squad and leading the side to a UEFA Cup place, Malesani was dismissed and Giovanni Trapattoni was hired for the 1998-99 season.

Dealings in the transfer window significantly strengthened the squad: Repka and Torricelli in defence, Amor and Heinrich in midfield and Edmundo in attack. Fiorentina had one of the strongest front lines of the age: Batistuta, Rui Costa and Edmundo. The trio enchanted the fans and took the team to the top until February when, at around the same time Batistuta was forced out by injury, the team began to lose its rhythm and feel the unfamiliar pressure. Ultimately, Fiorentina finished third and earned a spot in the Champions League qualifying round. The bitter disappointment was losing the Coppa Italia final to Parma, after having knocked out Padova, Lecce, Atalanta and Bologna.

Vittorio Cecchi Gori would not stand for it and before the 1999-2000 season he bought Predag Mijatović, Enrico Chiesa, Abel Balbo, Di Livio, Adani, Pierini and Rossitto. These players added great depth to the squad. If the league campaign did not go the way he wanted, it was the Champions League that brought success. The Viola beat the Polish side Widzew Lodz in the qualifying round and the fans were able to enjoy great moments of quality football. After almost thirty years, Fiorentina were back among the European greats: a good campaign saw them fall short just before the quarter-finals after having beaten big-name sides such as Valencia (that season’s runners up) and Manchester United, and having won at the mighty Wembley stadium, where Arsenal occasionally played their European ties. It was the final ray of light for that Viola side: in May 2000 they bid farewell to Trapattoni and Batistuta, the latter having become the club’s all-time top scorer in Serie A with 152 goals.

At the end of the season, Turkey’s Fatih Terim was appointed as Coach. Friction between the Coach and the President increased: good results and the support of the fans weren’t enough and it became an irreparable relationship when the news was uncovered that he had signed an agreement with Milan for the following season. Terim resigned, followed by General Director Giancarlo Antognoni, leaving Cecchi Gori without a team manager. Luciano Chiarugi was chosen to guide the team until the appointment of Roberto Mancini in 2001 midway through the season. The results were not extraordinary, in fact the team finished mid-table. However, there was one high point: the final trophy won by AC Fiorentina, their sixth Coppa Italia.

Brescia were dispatched in the quarters, then it was Milan’s turn to be overwhelmed by an incredible Viola side in the semis. The Rossoneri conceded four, two in either leg, which set up a final showdown with Parma. On Thursday 24 May 2001, when Paolo Vanoli scored the first leg’s winning goal three minutes from the end in Parma, Florence got behind the team and coach Roberto Mancini. On Wednesday 13 June 2001, in a crowded Artemio Franchi, Nuno Gomes eased the home supporters’ worries by cancelling out an initial strike from Parma’s Milosević. A 1-1 draw was enough for Fiorentina to clinch a sixth Coppa Italia on their home ground. For one evening, the triumph distracted attention from the chaos at the helm and the serious economic troubles.

The sales of Rui Costa to Milan and Francesco Toldo to Inter were difficult to take. Roberto Mancini was confirmed as Coach and expressed his optimism, but the 2001-02 season produced suffering after suffering: no determination shown by the side, ever-changing formations and an inconsistent coaching team, from Mancini to Chiarugi to Bianchi and then back again to Chiarugi. The final league table was a depressing sight: bottom of the table, twenty two defeats and a mere five victories.

Within a few months, between May and July 2002, relegation-induced gloom morphed into the realisation that reality was in fact the worst-case scenario.

The team were led by the wise Eugenio Fascetti, an experienced youth-team coach who was an expert at maturing young talent. Nevertheless, the internal tensions between staff and players who were used to Serie A and had not been paid for months were very high. Fiorentina’s summer break was particularly turbulent with arguments, listlessness and fan protests.

The agony was, however, short-lived. The club did not provide the necessary registration fees for Serie B and so disappeared from the Italian football scene after 76 years of existence. AC Fiorentina was no more.

Florentia Viola, a newly created club from Florence was allowed an exceptional registration into Serie C2. The owners of the new club were brothers Diego and Andrea Della Valle, renowned businessmen in the textile and footwear industries who owned the brands Tod’s, Hogan and Fay. Their hard work and commitment ensured football in Florence. They began without a team, a kit, a ball, a sponsor, or a home pitch but with bucket loads of passion and enthusiasm – the necessary ingredients for an immediate comeback.

From the most painful pages in the history of the Viola came the hope of rebirth that the city of Florence and the Fiorentina fans deserved. After the fall of AC Fiorentina, the new Gigliati, ‘Florentia Viola’, had to begin life in Serie C2 with a new kit and a squad built from scratch; what wasn’t new, however, was the ever-present love from the fans. Crowds flocked in their masses. It was a difficult start to the season and after several matches Coach Pietro Vierchowod was sacked and Alberto Cavasin appointed. The change of coach proved fruitful. After a slip at home against Montevarchi, Cavasin’s players began to soar thanks to goals from Christian Riganò. For the home game against Savona that mathematically guaranteed promotion to Serie C1, the Stadio Artemio Franchi was awash with the colour purple and 35,000 spectators.

The unexpected step up to Serie B for the 2003-04 season wrong-footed both the owners and the fans. The club had to compete at a higher level with a squad that didn’t have enough quality to make that step. Riganò scored his first few goals but victories to ensure a springboard for promotion to Serie A were not so forthcoming. Hectic activity in the January transfer window further strengthened the ability of the squad, which Emiliano Mondonico who had in the meantime replaced Cavasin, exploited fully to take the team to the playoff match against Perugia, who had finished fourth bottom in Serie A. In 180 minutes, the sacrifices of the recent past and the hopes of a better future were all played out. The prize seemed so close but the work needed to be done on the pitch. It was Enrico Fantini, recently acquired in the January window, who scored the goal to silence the Renato Curi. The nail-biting return fixture ended in a draw, allowing everyone at Fiorentina to put the most difficult period in the club’s history behind them. Fiorentina were back in Serie A!

The first season in Serie A under the Della Valle family was the most challenging. With unfavourable refereeing decisions and the coming-and-going of three coaches (Mondonico, Buso and Zoff), Fiorentina avoided relegation on the last day by grabbing 16th place. The home game against Brescia was Angelo Di Livio’s final match as he retired at almost 39 years of age, becoming the oldest player to have worn the purple strip.

Aside from the penalties imposed on Fiorentina for involvement in the Calciopoli scandal, the 2005-06 season signalled the beginning of a satisfying five-year period and was characterised by a new double-act in charge of the team: Coach Cesare Prandelli and Sporting Director Pantaleo Corvino. The coach from Orzinuovi excited the fans and proved himself to be an excellent motivator in the dressing room, able to create a strong core of players that he could always rely on. The team produced several splendid seasons of performances and results, with unforgettable moments in between: Luca Toni’s Golden Boot, the victory against Juventus at the Delle Alpi stadium, the 2007-08 UEFA Cup semi-final against Rangers, twice qualifying for the Champions League and the 2009-10 Champions League triumph at Anfield against Liverpool (Fiorentina would eventually be knocked out in the round of 16). Alongside moments of great sporting satisfaction, this period also saw the invention of “Terzo Tempo”, which was introduced by Fiorentina for a game against Inter. That game will also be remembered for the emotional minute of silence to remember the premature death of Mrs. Prandelli.

The arrival of the Della Valle family at the helm of Fiorentina heralded a new era in which the club began to affirm its own, unique style. Specific initiatives have been set up, such as: “Viola Fair”, the prize to encourage good conduct by fans; “Terzo Tempo”, in which the players of the opposition, whatever the result, are applauded and cheered by the home team; and the “Cartellino Viola”, which is a prize given to those who have demonstrated out-of-the-ordinary sportsmanship and integrity on the pitch. These initiatives have had a profound effect on the mentality of Italian football. In addition, who can forget the creation of the Fiorentina Onlus Foundation in 2008 and, since September 2010, a sponsorship deal in solidarity with Save The Children, the largest independent international organisation that promotes children’s rights. In Europe, only Barcelona have done as much with a similar type of sponsorship deal with UNICEF.

The famous phrase “il calcio è un divertimento” (“football is for fun”), displayed on the shirt during the 2010-11 preseason period reinforced the Florence club’s message to the entire world of football. Recognition for the club’s and the fans’ integrity has come from all over the sporting world and UEFA have invited all European clubs to copy the “Fiorentina model”.

The creation of the Fiorentina Onlus Foundation on 7 July 2008 was another important milestone in the club’s history. It demonstrated the will of ACF Fiorentina to actively engage with helping and defending those who most need it in society through a dedicated and stable organisation.

Since 2010 the club has established and participated in the annual ‘Historic Florentine Derby’ (a charity match between two representative sides of Club Sportivo Firenze and Palestra Ginnastica Fiorentina Libertas, the two sides who merged to form Fiorentina in 1926) and the Florence Football Cup (a friendly tournament in collaboration with the Viola Old Boys team to raise money for the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation, which is preceded by a conference on neurodegenerative diseases). On 2 August 2012, The Foundation for Sports History Museums was established, which was made possible thanks to support from three important social organisations: ACF Fiorentina, the Museo Fiorentina (Fiorentina Museum) and the Associazione Fiorentini nel Mondo (the Florentine Diaspora Association). These bodies gave life to a Florentine cultural organisation that is dedicated to football and sport in Florence.
The Foundation for Sports History Museums’ first objective is to breathe life into the Museo Fiorentina, with temporary and permanent expositions of memorabilia and important documents relating to the club’s sporting tradition. It also wants to publish information and educational material in both written and multimedia formats about the history of Fiorentina for the benefit of those passionate about the club and to educate the future generations of viola fans.

Fiorentina is therefore living proof that football history is not only created by winning matches and trophies, or by medalling at national and international sporting events, but also through the promotion of integrity, solidarity and sporting culture.