FLORENCE, Italy — Some of the biggest names in Italian soccer gathered along with thousands of mourners in one of Florence’s main squares for the funeral of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori on Thursday.
Some arrived at 7 a.m., three hours before the start of the funeral at Basilica di Santa Croce.
The hearse carrying Astori’s body was greeted by loud applause and shouts of his name and “grande capitano,” meaning great captain.
The square then fell silent for a few minutes, while many raised Fiorentina scarves and banners in the air.
Astori’s family arrived along with the hearse, including his partner, Francesca Fioretti, and their 2-year-old daughter, Vittoria.
Earlier, the Fiorentina players were met by applause when they arrived on foot, led by midfielder Milan Badelj.
The Croatia international read out a message on behalf of the club during the service, which was broadcast to the crowd outside.
“You are the brother or the son that everyone would have wanted to have,” Badelj said. “Your parents didn’t make any mistake with you, not even the tiniest bit. You’re not like others, you are football, the real one, the pure one of children.
“Our thoughts go out to your mother and your father, to your brothers, to Francesca and to Princess Vicky. You were a man with a capital M and we will tell her. You are the light for all of us.”
The service lasted about two hours. As soon as the coffin was brought back out, the people in the square again raised their scarves, sang the Fiorentina anthem and chanted Astori’s name as well as “c’e solo un capitano,” which means “there’s only one captain.”
Astori’s mother blew a kiss to the crowd, while the people of Florence were also thanked by his brother Marco in his eulogy.
Many dignitaries and former teammates were at the funeral, including Giuseppe Rossi, who plays for Genoa, and Borja Valero and Matias Vecino, who play for Inter Milan. Marco van Basten was there representing FIFA.
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, who played with Astori for Italy, was in tears as he arrived with Gianluigi Buffon and other teammates. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri also attended.
The delegation from Juventus had flown to Florence from London, where they beat Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Players and officials from most Serie A teams were present, including former Roma captain Francesco Totti and former Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura.
Thousands of people were also gathered outside Fiorentina’s stadium, where the funeral procession passed slowly on its way to the church.
The 31-year-old Astori was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before Fiorentina was to play an Italian league match at Udinese in northeast Italy.
The defender, who also played 14 times for Italy, was discovered by Fiorentina staff when he failed to show up for breakfast at the hotel in Udine.
Astori started in the Milan youth academy but never played a senior match for the Rossoneri, making his Serie A debut with Cagliari in 2008.
He spent six years at the Sardinian club before loan spells at Roma and Fiorentina, where he was signed on a permanent basis in 2016.
Fiorentina and Cagliari have retired Astori’s No. 13 shirt, while the head of the Italian Olympic committee said he will talk with Astori’s family to plan on how best to commemorate him.