Thirty-three years since their last title success, the southern Italian city of Naples was transformed into a massive street party last night (Thursday 4 May) which is likely to go on for several days/weeks, after their beloved football team clinched the Serie A championship.
A 1-1 draw away at Udinese was enough to guarantee that their closest rivals in the title hunt: Juventus and Lazio could no longer catch them and they could celebrate being champions for the first time since 1990 and the days of Diego Maradona.
Victor Osimhen’s equaliser and 22nd goal of the season, ensured the Neapolitans the point they required and at the final whistle those fans who had made the long trip north rushed onto the pitch to join in the celebrations with the players; whilst 800 Kilometres back home in Naples the rest of the city began a party that is likely to continue right over the weekend, throughout the month and probably well into the summer.
The night did not start quite as planned when Udinese’s Sandi Lovric put the home side one up early in the game, but when Osimhen latched onto a rebound soon after half-time he sparked jubilation in the stands and they comfortably played out the match to seal victory.
The party begins
Back in Naples the roads and streets immediately filled with people singing, dancing and hugging one another. Children did what comes natural to them in that part of Italy, they grabbed footballs and began “kick-abouts” impersonating their heroes.
Piazzas and fountains within them, filled with fans and flags were everywhere, particularly on the back of scooters zipping here, there, and everywhere around the triumphant city.
Revenge against the northern cities
For many this success will represent much more than just football as for years the city has had to contend with the glaring inequality that exists between Italy’s wealthy north and the much poorer south. It will be seen as some kind of social revenge against the so called “superpowers” of Milan, Turin, and Rome.
The great fightback
The great days of Maradona seemed a long way away when the club hit financial difficulties and went bankrupt leading to demotion to Serie C, which is Italy’s lowest professional league.
However, over time they have fought their way back and although Naples still has a lot of problems, it has become a real European city, attracting lots of tourists. Indeed, many of those visitors from all over the continent, were celebrating with the locals on a night few will ever forget.
Maradona watching over the city
Maradona’s influence was enormous and he can still be felt all around the city, with his image appearing seemingly around every street corner. His face is painted on bar windows, the side of buildings, billboards, and there is even a giant mural towering above what is effectively a shrine, with a sign above it that says ‘Dios’, which is the Spanish word for God.
The controversial Argentinian, who captained the side to two titles more than three decades ago, gave Neapolitans a sense of belonging and it seems a few of the current playing staff have reignited those same feelings.