First national title since 1990 (and Maradona) creates popular celebration in Naples
None of Italy’s leading soccer cities has yearned for a championship for as long as Naples. But after 33 years, it is finally here again.
Napoli seized that coveted scudetto for the third time in its turbulent club history – after 1987 and 1990 – by taking a point at Udinese in northeastern Italy: 1-1.
Sandi Lovric’s early 1-0 initially seemed to throw a spanner in the works. However, the Neapolitans, who also suffered a disappointment last Sunday against Salernitana (1-1), showed resilience.
Indeed, Victor Osimhen’s equalizer shortly after halftime, his 22nd goal of the season, caused an explosion of joy in Udine and a good 800 kilometers further south.
After the final whistle, the popular celebration erupted in full force. In Udine, Napoli supporters stormed the field en masse, also hunting for players’ uniforms. Among others, midfielder Piotr Zielinski experienced this personally.
The countdown to the redemption of the championship had been going on for months, but suddenly nerves seemed to get the better of them. Points were unnecessarily spilled in recent weeks, such as last Sunday, and in the Champions League, despite supremacy in Serie A, they lost to AC Milan over two games.
This championship is also the first title for the Neapolitans without folk hero Diego Armando Maradona. In 1987 and 1990, the Argentine phenomenon was still a footballer himself, then he became the most famous supporter. Until his death, in 2020. Since then, the stadium bears Maradona’s name.
Anno 2023, heroic roles are played by men like Osimhen, ex-Ajacied Stanislav Lobotka and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. But above all, the team spirit is impressive.
As the minutes passed in Udine, everything in and around Naples colored bluer and bluer, ahead of the festivities in the south of Italy.
The sold-out home stadium, with huge video screens, was bursting at the seams and the streets were filling up for mayhem on a grand scale.
For the first time without Maradona, but in the place where his spirit lives on most emphatically.