‘Astori’s wall’ – one of the most poignant symbols of the untimely passing of one of Italian football’s most beloved characters. It was the part of the gate at the Stadio Artemio Franchi at which thousands of fans, team-mates and opponents came to lay flowers, shirts, scarves, photos, banners and notes in the hours, days and months after Davide Astori’s death on March 4, 2018. The touching, makeshift shrine has since been moved to the Centro Sportivo which now also bears the defender’s name.
Astori’s death left an entire city in a state of shock. In announcing a day of mourning in Florence, mayor Dario Nardella stated:
“The role of captain of the city’s team; the deep bond that he had built with not only the fans but also the entire community thanks also to his human qualities and civic values; the exemplary conduct of a professional attached to the most important ideals of the Viola shirt; the national team and the world of sport in general which he represented; and, not least, the young age at which he was take so tragically and suddenly – all of these things are at the heart of the collective sense of loss felt in all of Florence.”
There were messages of support for Astori’s family, the club he represented and those who had supported of him. Unsurprisingly, Chapecoense, the club devastated by the plane crash that claimed 77 lives on November 28, 2016, were among the first to send their condolences.
“The Chapecoense team is profoundly affected by the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori. Our deepest sympathies go to the Astori family, his team-mates and friends and we share their pain.”
Fiorentina’s players were both stunned and traumatised by the sudden loss of their team-mate. One by one, they paid tribute to their captain but it was Riccardo Saponara who perhaps best conveyed their sense of a loss with an open letter to Astori that was as beautiful as it was heart-breaking.
“O captain, my captain. Why did you not come down to have breakfast with us all? Why did you not pick up your shoes from outside of Marco [Sportiello]’s room and then drink your orange juice, as usual?
“Now they’ll tell us that life goes on, that we must look forward and pick ourselves up, but what will your absence feel like? Who will arrive every morning in the cafeteria, warming up everyone with his smile?
“Who will ask us about what we did the previous night and have a laugh about it? Who will nurture the youngsters and give a sense of responsibility to the veterans? Who will form the circle to work on our ‘two-touch play’ and who will demolish Marco on the PlayStation?
“With whom will we debate Masterchef, Florence’s restaurants, TV series or games played? Who will I lean on at lunch after a tiring training session? Come on, come back! You still need to finish watching LaLaLand, so you can analyse it like you did with all new movies.
“Come back to Florence, they’re waiting for you to renew your contract and acknowledge all the good and the positivity that you bring to us on a daily basis. Get out of that damn room! We’ll be waiting for you tomorrow at training
“In life, there are people you’ve known forever but have never bonded with, and then there are the ‘Davides’, who warm to you immediately with a simple ‘Welcome to Florence, Ricky’.
“Wherever you are now, keep on defending our goal and enlighten the right path for us from the backline.
“Oh captain, my captain. Forever, my captain.”