Fiorentina tragically lost their beloved captain Davide Astori last month, but his presence is everlasting in the Viola side he left behind who are making a late push for a dream European berth.
Loss is never easy to deal with, especially when it is untimely and unexpected like Davide Astori’s passing last month which shook the football world to its core.
Fiorentina and the entire calcio community mourned the death of the Azzurri international, expressing their deepest sympathies and condolences to his family, partner and the two year old daughter he left behind. In a time of grieving, our diverse footballing fraternity spanning the globe paid their respects with one beautiful tribute after another, demonstrating just how special this game and everyone sharing a common love for it, truly is. But the difference between every other club and Fiorentina was that they had to find a way to carry on with the work their captain left behind and somehow play football in the wake of his passing.
Fiorentina not only lost a quality footballer, but a captain who’s class and character was of paramount importance to the squad’s chemistry and cohesiveness. Replacing Astori was an impossible task, except for manager Stefano Pioli, Fiorentina and the supporters, his presence is still felt and inspiring the club to a spectacular run at Europe from above.
At the time of the 31-year old’s sudden passing on 4 March, the Viola sat in 10th place comfortably, but very much needing a breakout run if they were going to qualify for the UEFA Europa League. Since then, an inspired Fiorentina have sprung free in a big way, having won five straight in Astori’s absence and six total altogether.
During this win streak, Fiorentina have picked up the most points amongst Serie A clubs with 18, two more than league leaders Juventus, and seven more than outfits like Inter, Lazio, Napoli and AC Milan who are all chasing European berths themselves.
It hasn’t been just a single individual carrying the side either. Together, this Fiorentina unit has stood shoulder to shoulder, leaning on one another to carry their own weight and pitch in to the winning efforts of the club. However, a few notable players have answered the call, elevating their game at the right time for Pioli – and it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Strike Giovanni Simeone’s three goals during this streak have led on the offensive end, bringing his season tally to a team-leading nine.
“We have stayed united through the difficulty we have faced,” Simeone said after Fiorentina’s impressive victory over Roma last weekend (h/t The Guardian). “And this is a thing that gives you strength. After every training session, for example, nobody wants to go home because staying is the only way not to think about what happened.”
In the middle of the park, Milan Badelj has been taking up the impossible task of wearing the armband Astori wore with courage, grace and class, but has done all he could to embody those very qualities in his absence by ensuring the entire squad is playing with their hearts on their sleeves and the late defender’s memory in their mind each time they set foot on the pitch – either in training or on match day.
Currently, Fiorentina trail Milan by two points in the table for the sixth and final spot good for European qualification, and there is no denying this current win streak, last achieved nearly 60 years ago, has been influenced a great deal by their fallen leader who looks on from afar.
Football, in the grand scheme of things, weighs very little when you consider the pain and suffering Astori’s family, friends, and those closest to him, have endured since he left us a month ago. Sadly, a few wins or a European berth will never erase the shock we all experienced and bring Astori back, but knowing the man himself and the impact he left on everyone who came in contact with him, he would be proud to see his influence wearing off on such a large group of people and have them all rally to set the same example he did as a professional, a father and most importantly a human being shall live on in the hearts of everyone in Florence.
With or without Europe, Davide Astori will live on in all of our hearts, and although he may not be on the pitch playing side by side with his Viola teammates, his spirit is existent and the inspiration for Fiorentina’s run is attributed to the legacy he left behind.