Milan Badelj delivered a moving eulogy to Davide Astori on behalf of the Fiorentina squad at the captain’s funeral on Thursday.
Family, friends, team-mates and colleagues from across Italian football paid their respects to the popular defender at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, where approximately 8,000 members of the public also gathered to mourn Astori.
The Italy international was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday, ahead of Fiorentina’s Serie A match away to Udinese.
Udine’s public prosecutor has attributed the player’s death to natural causes, with an autopsy indicating heart problems were to blame.
A popular figure at his former clubs, including AC Milan, Cagliari and Roma, Astori’s unexpected passing has prompted emotional tributes to be offered by the likes of Juventus and Italy great Gianluigi Buffon.
And on Thursday, Croatia international Badelj eloquently expressed the pain the Fiorentina squad will feel at the absence of their captain.
“Dear Davide,” he said.
“I speak on behalf of my team-mates and the purple family: Your name in Hebrew means ‘beloved’, and to see all those who are here today to show you affection, I believe this is really your name.
“Davide, with your eyes you can get inside people and stay there. You are not like everyone else, you are the one that even if you do not know the languages well you managed to talk to all of us, talking with the heart and keeping us united. You have the gift of the universal language of the heart.
“Your mother, your father, must know that they have done nothing wrong with you. You are exactly the son and brother that anyone would want to have.
“You’re the best team-mate a guy can dream of having. Having you at your side makes you feel safe, thinking, ‘it’s ok, because Davide is here’.
“We cannot forget your laughter, your way of joking with everyone. You [as a] ‘world famous designer and footballer in free time’, as you loved to define yourself. You are football, the pure one of children.
“Our thoughts go to your family, to Francesca and to princess Victoria. The task of all those close to her will be to tell her who Davide is, because your daughter growing up will have to know who her father was. A great man.
“I finish with an anecdote. In the morning, when you arrived in the physiotherapy room, you were always the one to turn on the light. You are this for all of us, you are light. Thanks Davide.”
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