March 10, 2018 / 3:30 PM / 14 days ago

Soccer: Fiorentina coach pays emotional tribute to Astori

MILAN (Reuters) - Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli paid an emotional tribute to Davide Astori on Saturday as his team prepared for their first match since their captain died suddenly last Sunday.

A woman touches the jersey of Fiorentina soccer player Davide Astori as she pays her respects outside the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pioli, whose side host Benevento in Serie A on Sunday, said he would miss Astori every day and that he wanted to hug each of the thousands of fans who turned out for the 31-year-old’s funeral on Thursday.

“I had the privilege and the good fortune to get to know him closely in these months, he was a special person and special captain,” said Pioli in the pre-match press conference.

“He always found the right time and the right way to say things to me and his team mates. He was generous, positive, ready to help and altruistic,” added Pioli, his voice trembling at times.

“I miss him every day I go onto the training field and I will miss him every time we play a match.”

Thanking the fans who turned out on Thursday, Pioli said: “Our fans have a huge heart. I would like to have hugged each and every one of them to console them and let them console us, so together we could find the strength to go on.

“I would like to thank the whole world of football. The fact that there was such a heartfelt participation, moving and full of solidarity (on Thursday), is down to Davide and everything he transmitted.

“It shows that there are still values and principles in the world, even if the opposite often seems to be the case. It is up to us to follow his example and carry it forward.”

Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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