Thousands gathered outside the Santa Croce Basilica in Florence, Italy, on Thursday to bid an emotional farewell to Davide Astori, the Italian international footballer who passed away suddenly on Saturday night.
Astori, the captain of local team Fiorentina, was found dead in his hotel room in Udine on Sunday morning, a post-mortem on Tuesday confirming that the 31-year-old had suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest linked to the slowing of his rate. He leaves behind his partner and two-year-old daughter.
Outside the basilica, where Italian renaissance greats such as Michelangelo and Galileo are buried, Fiorentina supporters waved violet scarves and flags and set off purple flares, while others held signs reading "Ciao, Capitano" and "Our captain forever."
Inside, family members were joined by the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, and Astori's Fiorentina teammates, as well as other top Italian footballers such as Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Giorgio Chiellini, whose Juventus team had taken part in an emotional minute's silence at Wembley ahead of their Champions League game against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.
"Like a robbery, death takes life from us in unexpected ways," said Cardinal Guiseppe Betori, whose sermon was broadcast to the masses outside and whose words were greeted by spontaneous outbreaks of applause and football chants.
"You couldn't speak any foreign languages but everybody understood you because you spoke with your heart," said teammate and vice-captain Milan Badelj, reading from a letter composed by the squad which spoke of a "simple, direct and pragmatic player – but like no other."
"Your parents had everything they wanted with you, Davide," the Croatian midfielder continued. "You are the son and brother that everybody wishes to have. You were football pure, the football of children."
Referring to Astori's young daughter, he added: "Those of us remain will have the duty of telling your princess, Vittoria, who you were, Davide: a man with a capital M."
Astori will be buried on Friday in his birthplace of San Pellegrino Terme near Bergamo in northern Italy.
On Sunday, vice-captain Badelj will lead the team against Benevento, Fiorentina's first match since Astori's death.
Both Fiorentina and Astori's former club Cagliari have announced they will retire his number 13 shirt in his memory.