Calcio Storico: A "football game" with plenty of fighting thrown in

Today is the day the tradition is celebrated in Florence

Fancy a bit of a wrestle with a game of football thrown in? Then you should be in Florence, Italy today, June 24th, on the feast day of St. John the Baptist.

The celebration of the patron saint features one of the more bizarre sporting traditions you're likely to come across in the form of Calcio Storico, or 'giuoco del calcio fiorentino'.

Calcio Storico involves four teams from the four neighborhoods of Florence taking each other on in what can only be described as mixed martial arts meets rugby; a barbaric tradition with football as a pretence for a brawl.

The four teams include Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green).

According to Visit Florence's official website, the game's rules were first published back in the 1500s, and it was only played by the upper class. You will be glad to hear that sucker-punches and kicking people in the head are not allowed but headbutting, punching, elbowing, and choking are all permitted. 

The rules back in the 16th century were that "it was played in teams of 27 and both feet and hands were used. Goals can be scored by throwing the ball over a designated spot on the perimeter of the field with another goal running the width of the short ends. There is a main referee, six linesmen and a field master. Each game is played out for 50 minutes with the winner being the team with the most points or 'cacce' scored."

Based on the video below, it appears as though the fighting aspect has only increased and the ball is there as an ornament.