On this day: Fiorentina’s UFO

On this day in 1954, a friendly match between Fiorentina and Pistoiese ground to a halt, and may just have invented glam rock in the process.

Around 10,000 fans were inside the Stadio Comunale, later to be known as the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

At around 14.20 local time, just after half-time, a roar went up from the crowd.

No goal had been scored, no foul committed, and the players on the pitch must have looked to each other in bewilderment.

Soon though they too would see what had caused the disruption.

On this day in 1954, a friendly match between Fiorentina and Pistoiese ground to a halt, and may just have invented glam rock in the process.

Around 10,000 fans were inside the Stadio Comunale, later to be known as the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

At around 14.20 local time, just after half-time, a roar went up from the crowd.

No goal had been scored, no foul committed, and the players on the pitch must have looked to each other in bewilderment.

Soon though they too would see what had caused the disruption.

In the sky above the stadium, a large oblong object moved slowly into view, before appearing to stop above the playing surface.

Silvery filaments descended from the heavens, while the sky itself seemed to shimmer and glow with random flashes of light.

“It was something that looked like an egg that was moving slowly, slowly, slowly,” Ardico Magnini later told the BBC.

“Everyone was looking up and also there was some glitter coming down from the sky, silver glitter.

"We were astonished we had never seen anything like it before. We were absolutely shocked.”

Play ground completely to a halt as all those in attendance gawped up at the object above them.

For around half an hour the mysterious flying object simply hovered, showering down its strange filaments. Many who were there that day were convinced they had seen visitors from another world.

“In those years everybody was talking about aliens,” Romolo Tuci told the BBC in 2014. “Everybody was talking UFOs and we had the experience, we saw them, we saw them directly, for real.”

This was not some incident of mass hysteria either, as another object was sighted above the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, travelling south-east toward Rovezzano.

Was this really mankind’s first contact with an alien race?

Not according to CICAP, Italy’s leading skeptic organisation.

An investigation found that the air force had been carrying out exercises on that day, using Chaff – a radar countermeasure which involves dropping flares from aircraft.

And the white object in the sky? That was likely migrating spiders, who send long, whitish strands into the air to travel by wind. The migration period coincides with the time of the incident.

It appears then that the Stadio Artemio Franchi may not have been visited by aliens that day, but the incident may just have had a different role to play in history.

In June of 1972, English rock singer David Bowie released his fifth album, a concept record about an alien named Ziggy Stardust.

Aside from the music, the outrageous costumes worn by the singer and his band caught the imagination, with the LP one of the primary drivers of the glam rock scene of the 1970s.

The name of Bowie’s band was, of course, The Spiders from Mars, and it has been claimed that the name came from that incident in Florence.

Ziggy himself was no fan of football, the answer to whose shirts he wore appearing to be “no-one’s”.

However, he did have a long-held fascination with space and extra-terrestrials, and such an incident is unlikely to have escaped the notice of the late superstar.

There is debate about the origin of the name and the link may well be apocryphal, but Bowie did visit the Artemio Franchi at least once, though not to watch the Viola.

On June 9 1987 he performed to 70,000 fans in Florence – on his Glass Spider tour.

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