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Italian Football

Italy is famous for many things - food, wine, opera, the Mafia - but there are few things Italians love more than football, otherwise known as soccer in the USA. The top Italian league, Serie A, is probably the third toughest in the world after the English Premiership and the Spanish Primera Liga respectively, and there is no shortage of top quality teams with a long and illustrious history. In addition, Italy are current holders of the World Cup - the world’s most watched sports tournament.

The pride of the city of Florence is AC Fiorentina (www.acfiorentina.it), who play at the Stadio Artemio Franchi at Campo di Marte, north east of the city centre. They’re distinguished by the traditional purple and white strip exhibiting the Fleur de Lis - one of the most prominent symbols of Florence.

Fiorentina have had their ups and downs in recent years but are now back in the top flight and football fans might well like to catch a game when in town. Tickets cost between €20 and €140 and (cheaper for women!) and can be purchased at the ground on the day or beforehand from Chiosco degli Sportivi on Via Anselmi near Piazza della Republica. Matches are normally on Sundays at 3pm, only moved occasionally to suit TV scheduling.

It is worth noting however, that football matches in Italy are not a family event and that violence is a growing problem. When English teams come to visit, Italian hooligans are at their most vivacious and work in tandem with the Italian police to cause bloodshed.

For more history and information on Florence’s famous football team see the official site or read up about them in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACF_Fiorentina

The football season runs from August to May and as well as the league championship there’s also a knock-out tournament called the Italian Cup (Coppa Italiana). In addition, the top teams compete against the cream of Europe in the Champions’ League and UEFA Europa Cup - check out the club site for fixtures.

Other top teams in Italy include:

Juventus - Dubbed the Grand Old Lady of Italian football, Juve have won the Italian league championship 27 times - more than any other team - though they were controversially stripped of their titles in the 2004-5 and 2005-6 seasons after a match-fixing scandal which rocked Italian football. They were also punished with demotion to Serie B, from which they quickly regained promotion in 2007. This however, was not the first time the club has been accused of dubious activity and Juve suffer an unenviable reputation as habitual cheats among fans of just about all opposing football teams in Italy.

AC Milan - Owned by three-times Italian Prime Minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, Milan are one half of Milan’s immense presence in the world of football. With an illustrious history in Europe as well as at home, Il Milan have been consistently one of the world’s top teams for many years and have an impressive pedigree of fielding star players - the most recent acquisition being a certain David Beckham.

Internazionale - Known as Inter Milan to foreigners, Inter are the other half of Milan’s football world and the bitter rivals of AC Milan. At the time of writing, Inter have been Italian champions four years running, though in 2006 they were awarded the title only after it was stripped of Juventus for match fixing and in 2007 their nearest rivals (including Fiorentina) had suffered points deductions for their involvement in the same scandal.

Both AC Milan and Inter play heir home games on alternate weeks at the famous San Siro Stadium - one of football’s hallowed grounds and a true monument to the glory of both teams.

AS Roma - The pride of the eternal city of Rome, Roma, or La Magica as they’re known to Romans, are spear-headed by talismanic captain and local boy Francesco Totti, who has rebuked the advances of the biggest and best clubs in the world in order to remain faithful to his beloved home town club. Champions in 2001, Roma have done well to keep up with their richer, more powerful rivals, though they are regularly let down by an exceptionally violent minority of fans.

Trivia: Italy won the World Cup in 2006 by beating France in a penalty shoot-out in Germany, but the match was marred by a bizarre incident in which the French captain, Zinedine Zidane - a former Juventus player who had made suggestive comments about the use of performance enhancing drugs at the club - was sent off for a wild and seemingly unprovoked head-butt on Italian bad-boy Marco Materazzi. The reason behind the attack remained a mystery until some days after the game when Zidane was interviewed. In the following months, many Italian fans proudly sported t-shirts with the message ‘The Mother of Zidane is a Whore’.

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