In the shadow of Vesuvius, a city erupts as Napoli win the title

Naples erupted in a night of frantic and explosive celebrations on Thursday night after winning its first national football championship in 33 years, playing 850 kilometers from home in the northern city of Udine.

More than 10,000 Neapolitans took to the country’s already overcrowded Autostrade to watch the game, while the Diego Maradona Stadium in Naples sold out in minutes, even without the match being played at home – instead, fans turned out in large numbers. seen on the screen.

Naples have been on the verge of winning the coveted Scudetto for weeks after taking a commanding lead over nearest rivals Lazio, but scoring the last few points needed for victory was painful. Udinese took a shocking lead early in the game and it was only in the second half when Napoli’s star striker, Victor Osimhen slotted in an equaliser, that the fans started to relax.

The city has been decked out in blue and white stripes and impromptu shrines have been erected to Diego Maradona, the Argentine great who led the team to victory almost two generations ago.

This time though, Napoli’s victory is the result of a team: a flamboyant, eclectic and multicultural mix of relative unknowns, including Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen, Serie A’s top scorer, who sports a Batman-style eye mask, and Georgian winger, Khvicha Kvartskhelia, whose exciting play saw him compared to Maradona and earned him the nickname ‘Quaradonna’.

Together, they have propelled Napoli to become one of Europe’s top teams, known for their brutal, attacking style of football – and all have now become targets of multi-million euro takeover raids .

For Napoli fans, the Serie A season has been an exercise in delayed gratification, the subject of endless jokes and double entendres, which one commercial radio announcer described as akin to a long wait to meet a distant lover – it can only be said that It was “his time of the month”.

The joy of Osimhen’s equalizer turned into another nervous wait of over half an hour as the team were denied several goals to secure the game, instead having to watch the clock as it ticked down to a fretting three minutes of extra time. Gradually progressing towards full time. Time.

Naples has always been known for its spectacular fireworks display on New Year’s Eve, which go off randomly from every balcony, terrace, terrace and street, often resulting in at least one death and many injuries.

On Thursday night, Vesuvius was silent while the city in its shadow erupted in an aerial cascade of sparks and explosions that lasted for several hours, occasionally pierced by the screams of frightened dogs.

Napoli fans – like Neapolitans themselves – have endured decades of humiliation and a form of racism, treated with disdain by the wealthy, powerful clubs trained in the north of Italy and referred to as ‘terroni’ or ‘arabi’ (peasants). and Arabs) are greeted by banners proclaiming ) and even ‘Benvenuti in Italia’ – Welcome to Italy in Away Games.

For Napoli club owner, filmmaker Aurelio De Laurentiis, his victory has also been a monumental exercise in patience after buying a bleak, downtrodden – and bankrupt – club 19 years ago and slowly managing to take it to the top Has been done

Just before his club’s long-awaited victory, De Laurentiis described their path to victory as redemptive: “After 33 years such a prestigious victory would be a pride for the whole city, a form of retribution for all those those who have felt discriminated or deprived. However, this redemption must bring unity within the country itself: the South and the North will no longer be considered separate factions”.