They did it his way. Fiorentina march on in the name of Davide Astori, taking all the positives from a tragic situation and casting aside all the rubbish that surrounds this sport. How beautiful to see the squad return to the training ground, now named after their teammate, after the 2-0 victory at Roma to be greeted by hundreds of fans. The ultras movement is so often maligned, but this was its purest form. Seeing fans and players together, united chanting ‘C’e solo un capitano’ – There’s only one captain – brings both a tear to the eye and a smile to the face.
It feels like a lifetime ago when the same Viola supporters were hurling abuse at the club owners. The players and Coach Stefano Pioli were usually spared, because it was the lack of transfer activity and ambition by the Della Valle brothers that most infuriated the crowd. That all feels rather irrelevant since March 4. The target now is not to lift silverware or reach a certain level. It’s just to keep going, together. Sometimes the greatest success in life is just living it well.
The fact that Astori passed on so many good vibes to everyone he met made them want to be more like him – that’s worth more than a Scudetto. That’s a legacy greater than a Ballon d’Or.
We’re seeing a similar outpouring of emotion this week following the sad death of Ray Wilkins. Like Astori, he was a gentleman both on and off the pitch, but perhaps didn’t realise quite how much he was admired until after he was gone. Maybe none of us realised. When people are so young, you take them for granted.
The need for more medical research was brought home in dramatic fashion this weekend with an eerily similar situation to that of Astori. Le Havre defender Samba Diop went to sleep and did not wake up. He was only 18 years old. When so much money is spent on tracking every movement a professional football player makes, how is it possible we still know so little about the human heart?
The players union and clubs should band together to create a fund for medical research, using all their data together to spot any patterns and perhaps prevent any more of these tragedies. They are the ideal subjects for medical trials, already monitored on a daily basis and kept in top physical shape. The research could then be combined with that into non-sporting subjects to seek correlations and help wider understanding of the heart. That too would be a legacy to be proud of.
The time will come when this positive wave of love covering Fiorentina fades and they return to being a normal club, team and fanbase. For now, we should all embrace this warm glow of positivity, the light that Milan Badelj said Astori brought to every situation.