Why is Italian football called Calcium?
In Spain we say soccer, in Germany Fußball, in England and France they share football, but in Italy, as much as their language is similar to the one we speak in the bull's skin, they say football. And best of all, no one asks why. "This year Italian calcium is going to be spectacular" or "calcium has its that because they give a lot of kicks" are common phrases among some Spanish or Latin American soccer fans who do not fall into the fact that calcium, plain and simple, means kick. It is as if in England they said kick instead of football, as it is, but the explanation of the term has its roots in a period in which football as we know it today was not even a distant thought.
We have to go back to the time of the Roman Republic, where there was neither Tottis nor Di Canios, but Scipios and Pompeii. In a period when senators were discussing the future of Rome, the legionaries were the spearhead of an army that aspired to romanize all land that lay before it; but to conquer, you have to train. A) Yes, a game called harpastum, in which the legionaries faced each other with the aim of bringing a ball to the other end of the field, it served as physical training for troops who were constantly enrolled in war campaigns.
This game became popular among Roman legionaries to such an extent that many continued to play it after retirement. That happened in the town of Florentia, founded in the year 59 a. C. by retired legionaries, and place where the harpastum underwent a curious evolution. As this game / training disappeared into the rest of the confines of the Roman territory, in Florence especially took root, tending to a new way of playing in which the feet had much more prominence than the hands. That is to say, Years passed, it was played more and more, but instead of grabbing the ball with their hands they started kicking it. I imagine a conversation between two players from that harpastum that looked less and less like the one played by the founders of Florence: Kicking? What if that's a good name for this game now that it's no longer like before? In agreement, leave the harpastum behind and we will start calling you football.
And for centuries the football in Florence. No matter the age and social class, every Florentine of good played this sport that had evolved since the time of Rome. In fact, in the streets of the city there are still some plates that prohibit the ball game, which shows that it was an activity strongly implanted in Florentine society. It was played on the Arno river in a year of 1490 so cold that the waters froze, even a match was played when in 1530 the imperial troops of Carlos V had besieged the city; but just like what happened with the coronavirus, the football was interrupted by an outbreak of plague that swept through the city in 1631. The practice of a sport that involved physical contact was suspended due to the social distance required by the plague, and little by little it was disappearing from the collective imagination of the Florentines, not getting to play a game in practically 300 years.
But fascism came to Italy with Mussolini at the helm, and in the dictator's mind, beyond subduing everyone who thinks differently, the idea of recovering the glories of the Italian past was also present, and between them, calcium poked its head out, now surnamed storico. In 1930 A Calorico Storico match was organized following the guidelines of that meeting that took place in 1530 with the city under siege. The streets were adorned, the Calcianti dressed in the clothes that the Florentines wore five centuries ago and calcium was reborn in Florence in style. In fact, despite the disruption caused by World War II, Today the beautiful city of Tuscany is decked out every June to organize a tournament of historical soccer in which the four traditional neighborhoods of Florence face each other and relive a game that is part of the history of their city.
However, It should not be thought that the Italian dictator was responsible for the return of calcium to the streets of Florence. Nothing is further from reality, the 1 May 1898 he got to play a game in the Florentine streets that served to demonstrate that the memory of that sport had not been completely erased. The funny thing is that a week later the first Italian Football Championship took place in Turin, which was conquered by the Genoa. The organizers and journalists who covered that match did not use the word calcium once., but the term football. In fact, the Italian Federation, also founded in 1898, at first he used the name football, keeping it until the year 1911, when it became the Italian Football Federation. The relationship is clear. When football landed in Italy it kept its English name for a time, but as the years went by and the football settled, at the same time that the memory of storic calcium reappeared, the Italian people were in charge of looking for a relationship between the two.
In this way they left aside an anglicism that did not mean much at the time, and took as their own the name of a sport that had been part of Italian society for centuries. This is how the event that led to today, when we talk about Italian football, the vast majority do not know that by saying calcium we are not just saying "kick", but we are reviving a sport older than Florence itself.