This is true sportsmanship: Fiorentina to honour contract of dead skipper

Suresh Nair

THIS is a tear-jerking tale of Italian Serie ‘A’ club Fiorentina, heartbroken at the death of skipper David Astori, and promising to honour his new contract which he was scheduled to sign.

It has emerged the 31-year-old Italian international defender’s untimely death due to a “cardiac arrest by natural causes” occurred just 24 hours before he was due to sign an extended contract.

He was found dead in his room at the La di Moret hotel in Udine.

But Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle proved to world football that they’re a professional club with the biggest heart and intends to donate the money in full to Astori’s partner Francesca and two-year-old daughter Vittoria.

“Believe me, it is hard to be here,” said a teary Della Valle. “This is a huge tragedy for us. I don’t even know how to express this pain. We are all under shock.

“He was with us for four years and just think that he was due to extend his contract on Monday. He was due to do it earlier, but due to the snow, we had put it back and agreed we would do it on Monday.

“It was his greatest joy to be able to end his career here, because this is where it would have ended.”

AWESOME GESTURE

What Fiorentina did must rank as an awesome gesture to every football club and footballer from Australia to Argentina, Bolivia to Bhutan, Singapore to Senegal of keeping to the honoured word and showing exemplary sportsmanship.

“They’ve shown professional players are not mere commodities but their services must be respected. I believe this gesture by Fiorentina in donating the money of his new contract is outstanding and a role-model lesson to the football world,” says former award-winning Singapore coach Jita Singh, who won the 1982 SNOC ‘Coach of the Year’ accolade.

Fiorentina players overwhelmingly paid tribute to Astori, contributing to a memorial of the player in Florence and applauding. And UEFA (Europe’s football-controlling body) have confirmed that all Champions League and Europa League games this week will pay tribute to Astori with a minute’s silence.

As a further gesture of high salute, both Fiorentina and Astori’s former club Cagliari have made the collective decision to retire his No.13 jersey. The joint club statement says: “To honour the memory and ensure Davide Astori is never forgotten, Fiorentina and Cagliari have decided to join-retire the No.13 shirt.”

He was in the prime of a football career which promised to offer so much more, he was locked in talks over the Viola over an extension to his current deal.

An elegant defender, but Astori always claimed to be a fashion designer, who played football as a hobby.

BROKEN LEG

He started his career in Milan’s youth team, but he really made his name at Cagliari, when Massimiliano Allegri signed in him 2008 at the age 21.

Astori became a stalwart at the Sardinian club and played a major role in keeping them afloat season-in-season-out, despite suffering a broken leg in the 2011-12 campaign.
Following an impressive 2013-14 campaign, he became a target for some of the biggest clubs in the world.

Manchester United sent scouts to watch him, while new Juventus boss Allegri was keen on a reunion with Astori in Turin.

However, he opted to join Roma on a season-long loan, making his Champions League debut in the process.

The Italian capital side had wanted to keep him, but he moved to Fiorentina.

He soon established himself as a fan-favourite at the Artemio Franchi, embracing the club’s values — and soon being named club captain.

In an era where there are so few club icons, he became a symbol of loyalty.

Fiorentina are a club which has always sold its best players, but Astori rejected every opportunity to leave, insisting it was his dream to deliver a trophy to their long-suffering supporters.

His popularity among Italian football was clear, as the decision to postpone the clash between Genoa and Cagliari was greeted with applause from within the stadium.

In my view, Fiorentina has scored massive global points in recognising, rewarding and remembering their late skipper.

It’s a heart-endearing gesture every professional club should try and emulate as a distinct message that they genuinely value their players – dead or alive!