More than three decades after the Diego Maradona era, SSC Napoli is back on the Italian football throne. Hundreds of thousands of fans at the foot of Mount Vesuvius celebrated in the light of fireworks and Bengal torches the historic coup that the surprise team of the year had given them with a draw in distant Udine.
Already early Friday morning, however, a shadow was cast over the wild title party in the already chaotic port city: at least one man was shot during the night, according to reports, hundreds of people came to the hospital emergency rooms, some with serious injuries.
Beware of riots
Just as great as the anticipation of the Tifosi, who have been starving for 33 years, for the triumph in Serie A was the authorities' concern about riots at the championship celebrations. They were partly justified: the health authorities counted more than 200 injuries in the morning, around half of them moderately and severely, as reported by the “Gazzetta dello Sport”. Burns on the hands from firecrackers and flares, injuries to the eyes and face, stab wounds, smoke inhalation: the list of injuries was long.
A 26-year-old died in hospital from gunshot wounds, and according to initial findings, three other people were injured in the incident near the main train station. When the man's death was confirmed, family and friends rushed into the clinic and demolished parts of the emergency room. Mayor Gaetano Manfredi reported on Friday that the shooting was not related to the football celebrations, but was at most used as an excuse to possibly settle old scores among criminals.
The parties had lasted all night, especially in the once notorious Spanish Quarter below the blue-lit fortress of Castel Sant'Elmo or at the port within sight of the mighty Vesuvius. The scenes went around the world, even in Udine, almost 900 kilometers away, players and coaches of the SSC looked at the live pictures from home with bright eyes. "Napoli, this is for you!" shouted successful coach Luciano Spalletti into the Dazn microphone.
Tears from coaches and players
In the interview, the normally level-headed and eloquent coach initially found it difficult to find words for what had been achieved. When he then mentioned his family and late brother Marcello, Spalletti cried.
Dribbling artist Chwitscha Kvaratschelia - the Serie A discovery of the season - had long since been crying wrapped in a Georgian flag in the dressing room. TV pundit, Neapolitan-born and former SSC pro Ciro Ferrara was overcome with emotion in front of the camera as he reflected on his early days as a player alongside Maradona.
The Argentinian world star brought Napoli their first two championship titles in 1987 and 1990 and has been a saint in the city ever since. Huge murals of the football legend, who died in 2020, are emblazoned on countless houses. "Napoli in paradise" was the headline in the "Gazzetta" on Friday, the "Corriere dello Sport" demanded: "Bow!"
Team spirit instead of superstar
Unlike three decades ago, it wasn't a superstar who propelled the team to success and brought huge satisfaction to the southern Italians in their perennial duel with the hated, wealthy clubs from the north, Juventus, Inter and Milan. 28 of the 30 most recent championships have gone to one of the big three teams, with only Lazio and Roma straddling the trio once.
Napoli, who were transferred to the third division in 2004 because of bankruptcy but made a comeback within a few seasons, have finished second in the league four times and third three times in the past decade. Now it was enough for the top.
The SSC Naples 2022/23 is a group of supposed nobodies that amazes all experts: There is, for example, the Serie A top scorer Victor Osimhen, who failed years ago in Wolfsburg and Napoli now with his goal to 1-1 at Udine title shot.
Or Kvaratschelia, who played in the Georgian league last season and this season played top-class defenders dizzily in the League and Champions League. Or Kim Min-jae, who came out of the Turkish league in the summer and became one of the strongest defenders in the country of defensive art.
On Sunday against Fiorentina
"This championship is well deserved," summed up captain Giovanni di Lorenzo in the night with blue shimmering hair. Like many of his teammates, the European champion couldn't escape the can of hair coloring spray in the dressing room. The team had to fly back from Udine on Friday afternoon, and the party should continue in the home game against Fiorentina on Sunday.
Club president Aurelio de Laurentiis has already made the first declaration of war for the future, he wants to "win the title again, then win again, then win again," he said. "And then of course the Champions League is missing." Naples has impressively shown that dreams can come true, albeit after more than 30 years.