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Thousands come to pay respects to Astori

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A piazza in Florence was packed with purple shirts and purple smoke, but the people were not there for a celebration.

Thousands of people descended on Florence to pay their respects and say good bye to Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, who tragically passed away early Sunday morning from what’s been reported as cardiac arrest.

In addition to the fans who filled the Piazza Santa Croce, Astori’s former teammates with Fiorentina, Cagliari and the Italian National Team arrived in the city this morning to say one last good bye as well as the funeral took place. Juventus’ players arrived in Florence straight off a plane from London, where they played a UEFA Champions League match the night before.

One of the eulogies given came from Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj, who called Astori the “best teammate you could dream of.”

“Davide, you are simple, direct, pragmatic,” Badelj said. “With your deep gaze you can get in to someone’s eyes and stay there, you’re not like all the others. You managed to talk to us all, to show us the way. You always talked with your heart, you motivated the youngest and the older ones with the gift of the universal language of the heart, a gift that very few have.

“You are the brother or the son that everyone would want to have. Your parents got nothing wrong with you, not one comma.

“You’re the best teammate a lad could dream of when starting out in this beautiful game. How can we forget your laughs, your sense of humor? “You are not like the others, you are football – the real thing, the pure football of children.

Below are some photos and video of the scene in Florence. Ciao, Davide.

Balotelli’s cigarette leaves A.C. Milan fuming

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The flow of Krazy Mario Balotelli stories has slowed since he left Manchester City for A.C. Milan in January. Maybe the Italy striker is calmer now that he’s back in familiar surroundings.

But here’s one for the collection: Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the foolish child 22-year-old man was told off by a train guard for smoking in a restroom during the team’s journey to Florence to face Fiorentina.

Smoking is prohibited on Italian trains. “I want to say that we’re going to fine him,” Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani told the paper. Balotelli has some prior form regarding train-based antics. And he’s a man capable of generating headlines simply by commenting on his ability to generate headlines.

In fairness, he is far from the only leading soccer star to be caught lighting up – Wayne Rooney’s been spotted in the past, among others.

But isn’t smoking when you’re an elite professional athlete who relies on lung power for your livelihood just plain stupid, and not in a funny kind of way? And doing so in a banned public place? That’s simply anti-social.

As for the match itself, Balotelli played the full 90 minutes and was booked as Fiorentina came from 2-0 down to claim a 2-2 draw despite having Nenad Tomovic sent off after 39 minutes. Milan stay third in Serie A, six points ahead of Fiorentina in fourth.