If in Florence you ask anyone to name a South American striker, born on a country on the shores of the Rio de la Plata, probably the answer will be the name of one of the best forwards in football history and of course an idol for Fiorentina fans: Gabriel Omar Batistuta, better-known as “Batigol”.
However at the dawn of association football in Florence (we are not talking about “calcio fiorentino” played in 1530 on Piazza Santa Croce in defiance of the imperial troops sent by Charles V, as the city was under siege) there was another football born on the shores of the Rio de la Plata who scored for Fiorentina. His name was Pedro “El Perucho” Petrone and he came from Montevideo, Uruguay.
Petrone‘s story was a mix of several stories: events related with names, escapes, regrets, first times and especially goals. Many goals. Pedro arrived in Florence in 1931 as multiple Olympic golden medallist and world champion. At 1924 Olympic Games he had reached the first place with Uruguay becoming also top tournament top-goalscorer, four years later he would win the gold medal in Amsterdam and in 1930 Petrone would be the member of Celeste national team that won the first World Cup title beating Argentina in the final at “Estadio Centenario”.
Before moving to Florence, where he would become the first foreign-born player in Fiorentina history and the first goalscorer at “Stadio Giovanni Berta” (later renamed “Artemio Franchi”), Pedro “Perucho” Petrone made two stops in Genoa, the city where he landed and Bologna, the town where he got a pair of football boots.
Montevideo-born footballer had discovered his goalscoring sense by chance. Petrone, who was a good goalkeeper praised for his long and powerful passes, had been called to replace his injured teammate as striker.
However when Petrone moved to Italy, he forgot his football boots. While Fiorentina executives were sending telegrams to demand Pedro‘s boots, Petrone went to Bologna visiting his old friend Raffaele Sansone. There the Uruguayan talent tried on a new pair of football shoes that he liked so much. According to some “legends” wearing this boots “Perucho” broke down the goal’s net and also the window of a shop located near the training ground. For sure with those shoes Pedrone scored 25 goals in his first season as Fiorentina player, being the top-goalscorer in Serie A alongside Bologna striker Angelo Schiavio.
Petrone‘s spell in Italy is also the story of an escape. During his second season at Fiorentina Austrian coach Hermann Felsner wanted to make him play on flanks leaving Montevideo-born striker was from goal and from goals. He scored one against Juventus in the first Fiorentina victory over Bianconeri but he didn’t achieve the same result of his debut season in Florence.
When Petrone decided to criticize Felsner‘s choice, Fiorentina executives didn’t support him, but fined the player and suspended South American striker. So “Perucho”‘s story made a stop in Bologna. Again. He asked for a permit to go to the Emilian city, but he wanted only to travel to Uruguay. He wanted to come back home, escaping from Florence. There “El Artillero” would come back during a boxe meeting at “Teatro Verdi”. Fans cheered him but it wasn’t enough to put the pieces of his Italian experience back together: Florence and Petrone are two former lovers that realized that they couldn’t get back together.
Petrone is only the first great striker in Fiorentina history. 90 years where names, times and way of playing have changed. Names like “El Artillero” were product of an unconscious marked by wars and weapons as symbols of power or nicknames as “Batigol” a powerful forward who celebrated his goals by mimicking a burst of machine-gun fire.
Now (we don’t know for how long) Fiorentina “number 9” comes from Croatia and has different moves. His name is Nikola Kalinić and his nickname is “Condor”.
A label that is a product of a rapacious kind of football, a way of playing where speed and insight into the game are more important than strength and vigour. What remains are goals, the maximum sublimation of the Game and what’s left are the stories of those men who produced this sublimation.