The contest for the most violent sport on the planet was decided back in sixteenth century Italy.
Incredibly, the sport is still played. It goes by the name of calcio storico, and just about the only form of violence that’s forbidden are sucker-punches or kicks to the head.
These apart, this blood-shedding predecessor of rugby, played between teams of 27 players each, allows punching, wrestling holds, elbowing, choking, and even headbutting. Martial arts are allowed too, but all combat has to be one-on-one – no ganging up.
Goals are scored by throwing the ball into nets, but what is important is that physical violence is the name of the game when it comes to preventing opponents from scoring, or muscling your way through them to score.
The war goes on for 50 minutes, with no breaks. Not even if injured players have to be taken off the pitch in stretchers.
There also no substitutions.
Although public interest was considerably low for the sport in the 17th century, it witnessed a revival in 1930.
In 1574, when Henry III of France decided to visit Venice, a game of clacio storico was held in his honour. He proclaimed that the event was “too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game”.