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Thursday March 4 2021
Three years without Astori

Three years after Davide Astori's death, March 4 remains a day every Serie A fan remembers with shock and sadness, writes Lorenzo Bettoni.

When Fiorentina took to the pitch against Roma last night, Astori was announced among La Viola's starters along with his iconic No. 13 shirt. The defender had played for both clubs during his career.

The league paid tribute to the former Fiorentina captain, showing the defender's picture in the 13th minute of every mid-week game and proceedings at the Franchi came to a solemn standstill for a few seconds last night. The number 13 will belong to him forever.

It’s a shame football has to go on behind closed doors at the moment and last night it was even more so because the love of the Fiorentina fans for Astori had to remain outside the Franchi gates.

La Viola's Ultras have been sharing messages on social media over the past few days, asking people to remember Astori by putting something purple outside their windows. Scarfs, bed linen or T-shirts would do just as long as they were the club’s colours, the colours of Astori in remembrance of their eternal captain.

Here in Florence, he will forever be "The Captain".

Fiorentina have retired the No.13 jersey and named their training centre after him.

Florence is a city where you can breathe art and football at the same time. Painters used to draw images of saints in the past. The Museo degli Uffizi, the Accademia, and many more offer some of the world's best examples. But it is outside them, in bars, restaurants and local shops, that the image of Astori is used in the same way as one of a Saint.

His picture can be found in every corner of the city. Last night, I bought a sandwich in a bar in front of the Franchi and Astori's image was there, close to those of Roberto Baggio, Gabriel Omar Batistuta, Giancarlo Antognoni.

Around the Artemio Franchi there are still scarfs and murals remembering the defender who has created strong bonds between people even after his passing.

Riccardo Saponara, one of Astori's closest friends and a teammate of his at Fiorentina, explains it well.

"One month ago, I met Jordan Veretout. We played against twice in the space of a few days," he wrote in a moving letter published by Cronache di Spogliatoio.

They were both at Fiorentina three years ago.

"When Jordan was in Florence, he didn't speak much Italian. We weren't too connected. We didn't talk too much, and I need to talk to people I know deeply.

"However, when we met again, we felt like we've been friends forever. We spoke like two people who have shared something that’s indescribable, even without talking to each other.

"It's like Davide is a universal language that has united us forever. It happens every time I meet a former Fiorentina teammate. Nobody touches on the issue. I think we are all afraid of the reaction each one of us would have inside.

"But when we hug each other, we implicitly feel it and it's always special."

It's the same feeling each one of us presumably has when March 4 comes every year.

Probably none of those who read this article knew Astori in person and neither did I, but the feeling of sadness and helplessness must be the same for each of us.

March 4, 2018, was supposed to be a regular Sunday of football. It became one of the most tragic days in the history of Calcio.

Again, it was Saponara who explained what happened at Udine's Hotel La di Moret.

"Davide didn't come down for breakfast. They went to call him. He didn't respond, they opened the door and found him lying there as if he was asleep.

"From my room, I heard an ambulance arrive. I looked out and heard a voice behind me. It was the kit man. I was stunned. Vincent Laurini popped in and asked what was going on, increasingly alarmed.

"The Coach Stefano Pioli was pale, tears in his eyes, he almost couldn't say Davide's name. He hugged us. One by one. Chiesa was still asleep, unaware of what was happening. When he was told, I heard noises as if his room was being turned inside out.

"Some of us were crying, others went back and forth in the hotel corridors, some sat in front of Davide's room, staring into space."

It will always be impossible to accept the death of a young and fit footballer who was checked almost daily.

It embodies human fragility and how many small, stupid little things we take for granted every day when we should just enjoy them.

That's why, three years after Astori's death, time seems not to have softened that sense of shock that hit all of us when we heard the news and that voice inside all of us that keeps telling us: "No, it's not fair."

@lorebetto

Have your say...
Sporting folk are not heroes man. They do a job and paid well for it. If you choose to find more in that, good for you. But the reality remains children die every day and they do not get 1/10th of the attention. And I am the one who is detached, right? pffft. The lack of comments on this article says it all....
on the 8th March, 2021 at 6:21pm
Wow Anonymous, are you really daft or just being a jerk on purpose? How is a sporting idol, a point of reverence for a huge part of the society that worships football like Florence, contribute "very little" for the society? at the very least he had given joy, pride, and elation to thousands of people with his sporting heroics. That's a lot more than a regular joe like you would ever accomplish in his life. How much they are paid is irrelevant to the discussion. Are you that detached to society?
on the 5th March, 2021 at 3:37am
@ Anonymous

Why would a person's family and friends grieve that person's passing? They're just one of billions who have died throughout human history???

The reason Astori is remembered by the Italian football community is because he was part of the Italian football community. The same way that if the local cheesemaker passes the cheesemaking community remembers. Astori's passing is particularly tragic as it was so sudden and he was so young. It is both sad and a reminder of our own mortality
on the 4th March, 2021 at 9:58pm
Look, it was a tradegy but just there are thousand who die and don't get memoriums during footballs games in fact they get forgotten all together. Astori is not better or worse than anyone else, but why does he deserve such reverence? Because he made millions playing football? This kind of worship, especially athletes who contribute very little to society as whole, is over the top.

Sorry, but it's true. Astori was a good man. So are most others.
on the 4th March, 2021 at 5:28pm

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