Davide Astori's final farewell: Florence and Italian football's emotional goodbye to tragic star

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Family, fans, opponents and colleagues united on Thursday to pay their respects to a man who will be greatly missed by all of those who knew him

The early morning scene is surreal: closed shops, sun which shines but offers no warmth and a lot of people. All of those to have taken to the streets are marching towards the same place, Piazza Santa Croce, with the same intention, to pay their respects to Davide Astori.

Florence is muffled, almost afraid to express its emotion at the tragic passing of a favourite son. Foreign tourists ask why bars in the city centre are closed, and it is difficult to give them an answer.

Then, the square in front of the Basilica of Santa Croce begins to populate and it is clear why the city has shut down. By 0900 local time there are already hundreds of people in attendance – someone has a banner, many others have Fiorentina scarves draped around their necks.

The Alberti Artistic High School, whose windows look down on the entrance to the Basilica, is full of young people wanting to participate in the mass mourning. From one of the windows hangs a banner: “DA 13. Ciao Captain”.

Davide Astori funeral

There are now about 8,000 people in the square below, but silence reigns - a respectful and moving silence broken only by the applause which accompanies the arrival of many of Davide’s friends to the church.

Viola supporters, and the entire city of Florence, want to honour the occasion in a fitting manner. They want to thank those in attendance on behalf of Davide. And they do that as best they can.

A roar greets the presence of Federico Bernardeschi. He may not have left the Viola on the best of terms, but today that does not matter. Only Davide counts.

And so, when historic rivals from Juventus arrive, the strongest of applause starts – an authentic ovation to welcome Gianluigi Buffon and his companions, who have returned in time from a Champions League game in England to pay their respects.

Manuel Pasqual and Borja Valero also arrive, former Fiorentina stars who may have left but have never been forgotten.

As time goes by, keeping track of all of those in attendance becomes impossible. The Piazza is a scene of continuous appreciation - for Francesco Totti and Pippo Inzaghi, for Damiano Tomassi and for Inter, for Josip Ilicic and those from SPAL. For everyone. Respectfully.

Davide Astori funeral

Then Davide arrives and, if possible, the sense of emotion multiples. Florence applauds its captain again and again.

A silence which is difficult to describe then accompanies the funeral ceremony, which is played to those outside the church through speakers.

Then, after Davide’s brother, Marco, and Fiorentina captain Milan Badelj have spoken, nobody can contain their emotion. Nobody, security officers and journalists included.

When Davide leaves the Basilica, a roar to rival that produced inside a stadium welcomes him. Songs, applause, words of affection, smoke – precisely the kind of reception every footballer has dreamt about since they were a child, and one today that Davide has received once again. But not for the last time.

Florence will never forget its fallen warrior and the songs about him, we are sure, will be heard many more times.

“Davide is one of us” is the chorus which accompanies the exit from the square of the car carrying Astori’s body. The body, and only that, because the soul of Davide is Florence and it will never leave.

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