Devastated Fiorentina fans turned the sky purple and held high the club’s colours as Davide Astori’s coffin left his funeral – followed by team-mates, his grieving widow and the biggest names in Italian football.
Teary mourners arrived at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence to say goodbye and chant “grande capitano” in the club skipper honour and Italy international, who died aged 31 on Sunday.The coffin was taken away from the service to an atmospheric display of unity from Fiorentina fans, as they lit violet flares that filled the Piazza with purple smoke, waving banners, while some fans wept at the moving scene.
Pallbearers stood at the top of the steps with Astori’s casket for mourners to chant and express their sorrow in the most dramatic of occasions, while some of the greatest footballers of all time fought back tears over the late defender.The likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Francesco Totti could be seen trying to contain their emotions as they arrived.
His wife Francesca Fioretti and two-year-old daughter Vittoria also arrived while the Fiorentina squad arrived on foot led by midfielder Milan Badelj.The Croatia international read out a message on behalf of the club during the service, which was broadcast to the crowd outside.
Badelj said: “You are the brother or the son that everyone would have wanted to have.
“Your parents didn’t make any mistake with you, not even the tiniest bit.
“You’re not like others, you are football, the real one, the pure one of children.
“Our thoughts go out to your mother and your father, to your brothers, to Francesca and to Princess Vicky.
“You were a man with a capital M and we will tell her. You are the light for all of us.”
The service lasted about two hours.As soon as the coffin was brought back out, the people in the square again raised their scarves, sang the Fiorentina anthem and chanted Astori’s name as well as “c’e solo un capitano,” which means “there’s only one captain.”
Astori’s mother blew a kiss to the crowd, while the people of Florence were also thanked by his brother Marco in his eulogy.His coffin was adorned with an arrangement of lilies, while ballboys and youth players from the football club clapped the captain into the church and then held hands as he was taken away.
Fans draped flags and banners from windows overlooking the Basilica in the picturesque Tuscan city as some supporters held their heads in their hands.The service took place at the 13th century Basilica di Santa Croce, the same church where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried – and a fitting mark of respect for the popular player who represented his country 14 times.
The Piazza is usually a space where the traditional Tuscan sport of Florentine football is played – a bruising, violent mix of football and street fighting.
But the mood was much more sombre but passionate in grief as Italy’s favourite game pulled out all the stops for tragic Astori, who joined the Viola in 2016.Last night Giorgio Chiellini paid emotional tribute to Astori after Juventus’ 4-3 aggregate Champions League win over Tottenham.
The Juventus captain said: “I cried many times.
“It was very difficult during the match because we have to think about our opponents, but he is always in our hearts.
“Tomorrow we go to give the last goodbye with our team-m
United in grief was former Fiorentina forward and club legend Gabriel Batistuta, who compared Astori to World Cup-winning club and international legend Giancarlo Antognoni.
The Argentina international said: “Fiorentina did well to entrust the armband to Davide because he was a real man first and foremost.
“I always thought the purple story had only one captain, my brother Giancarlo Antognoni.
“From now on we will have two. Forever.”