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Calcio Storico (Historic Football), also known as Calcio Fiorentino, after the city of Florence, Italy, where it originated in the 16th century, is the ferocious forerunner to football and rugby.

Still played in Florence once a year, part local tradition/part historic recreation, two teams of 27 men (yes that’s 54 guys built like gladiators) punch, elbow, choke, wrestle and head-butt their way across a piazza covered in sand to throw a ball into a net at the end of the field. Sounds familiar – but the costumes, setting and fanfare make for a unique spectacle.

Oh yeah and the winning team not only wins bragging rights for the next year – they also win a fine Chianina breed cow!

These images were captured in 2009 by Russian photographer Vova Pomortzeff. See more of his work here and visit the official site here.

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