Thousands of mourners holding banners and letting off smoke flares gathered in Florence on Thursday for the funeral of Fiorentina and Italy footballer Davide Astori.
The sudden death of the 31-year-old who captained his club has sparked an outpouring of grief in football-mad Italy. One banner in the crowd read “Ciao captain”, another “Our captain forever”.
Children wearing Fiorentina’s distinctive purple formed a guard of honour outside the Santa Croce basilica in the city as Astori’s coffin was carried out after the service. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini were among the mourners having flow back from London where the Turin team dedicated their Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday to Astori.
Chiellini after the match said: “We dedicate the win to him. He is on our minds on this day. I cried many times. He was a fantastic player.”
Fellow internationals Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli were also among players present and the entire Fiorentina team, dressed in sober dark suits and ties, came to pay their respects.
Astori was found dead in a hotel room in Udine on Sunday ahead of Fiorentina’s Serie A match against Udinese.
A post-mortem examination has found he most likely died from a cardiac arrest linked to the slowing of his heart rate.
Fiorentina and Astori’s former club Cagliari have said they will retire his number 13 shirt in his honour.