A world apart: Football trip to Naples

Context

Telling you about the Napoli Juventus match I experienced in 2014 means telling you about the match of my life. It was for me the beginning of stadium adventures all over the world. 8 years and dozens of stadiums later, I still haven’t experienced anything like it. As so often, I was joined by my “stadium comrade” for this football trip in Naples.

Estadio San Paolo Naples voyage foot

 

Discovering Naples the football way

 

Naples being a very old city, it abounds in ultra varied built heritage (churches, medieval castles, Renaissance…). We linger in the ancient parts of Naples before venturing into the Spanish part of the city. Bewitching walks where the charm starts to operate. Naples has many faults, but Naples does not cheat, it is authentic. We then arrived at the Piazza del Plebiscito, which I interpreted as being the central point of the city. This square is huge, surrounded by colossal buildings, each more sublime than the other. Especially the Royal Palace and the splendid Basilica of San Francesco di Paola.

 

Naples is a shock of contrasts and this place illustrates it perfectly. Let me explain. We find ourselves on this magnificent square, lined with monuments that could make the most beautiful cities in the world blush. But by getting closer, we realize that many columns are tagged! And the least we can say is that it is not great Street Art… Culturally speaking, it is a disaster, but here in Naples, we could almost understand it… When you are in Naples, I think you just have to accept it as it is or you just hate it… we had already made up our mind and were not going to be disappointed.

 

On the way to Pompei and the Vesuvius…

 

For our second day, we choose to go to the east of the city. More precisely in the direction of Vesuvius. As it is our last day of excursion and as the San Paolo is waiting for us tonight, we unfortunately have to pass on the discovery of the bay of Naples on foot and its heavenly islands. It is also an economical choice that we do not regret.

Well motivated, we start ascending to the top of Vesuvius. This is not a huge achievement in itself, but it offers an exceptional view on Naples. A must-do! Especially when we know the relationship with Vesuvius that Napoli fans have. They often compare their stadium to the famous volcano in their songs. We come back down from the Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii open their doors to us. Without further hesitation, we take our tickets and spend the afternoon there. Some parts are incredibly well preserved when you know that they were buried under the lava following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD… this is notably the case of the amphitheater, or the arena. The ruins of Pompeii are a trip back in time not to be missed under any circumstances during a football trip to Naples.

Without going into details of other small visits or succulent pizzas that we have eaten, let’s talk about football:

 

*Live from the second Vesuvius crater !

 

The day sets on Naples and we return from Pompeii by train. Not having spent the day in Naples, we realize that the city has changed color, to be dressed in an azure blue. We plan to arrive at the stadium early to make the most of it. Tonight, it is the reception of the rival Turin, leader of the championship, Napoli being in third position, far from AS Roma, runner-up of Juve. There is not much at stake in this match points wise, but the rivalry between the two clubs is such that it has become one of the most important matches in Italy in the 2010s. Probably the best fixture for a football trip in Naples.

 

On our way to the San Paolo 

 

For these reasons, the Neapolitan fans will be there. Straigt out of the metro, we are now at the foot of the San Paolo of Naples. This stadium matches its city perfectly. It’s a big stadium made of concrete and scrap metal, whose architecture I won’t particularly remember. But this stadium (like their city), the Partenopei have accepted it as it is, despite its apparent defects. Here, you have to look beyond the superficial to sense the best that Naples has to offer.

Fascinated by the videos of the San Paolo’s curves regularly published by Decibel Bellini, the official announcer of the San Paolo, we chose our seats near the Curva A to live the Neapolitan fervor from the front row. The access to the stadium is quite simple, but it’s once inside that things get complicated. The marking is absent, and a steward makes us understand that in this sector of the stadium, we can sit wherever we want (or wherever we can in the case of this evening, because the curve and the stadium are full). No doubt, we are still in Naples (laughs)!

 

San Paolo is on fire for our football trip in Naples !

 

The players start warming up in front of our eyes, and Decibel announces the line-ups. It is a real All Stars Game that we are lucky to attend tonight. Both teams are complete. Juve’s team composition is booed by the whole stadium, then the public chants the names of the Napoli players one by one. This is our first checkpoint of the Neapolitan atmosphere, the much awaited Marek “HAMSIK!!!” Lorenzo “INSIGNE!!!” and Gonzalo “HIGUAIN!!!” resound in the San Paolo, and the game is definitely on!

The evening is beautiful and the players of SSC Napoli will take the better on their rival and will not leave them anything. Nothing quite worked out for Juventus this game. Callejon opens the score in the first half, the whole stadium explodes in a racket of hell and celebrates the striker answering the announcer “Jose … CALLEJON!” seven times, as for his number. We are ecstatic, the power of the CURVA A impresses, it does not sit and will not stop singing all evening. The CURVA B, her little sister, also gives a lot of herself, but is a little too far away from us to judge. At the end of the game, it’s Mertens who will seal the fate of the Turinese (2-0), who will leave with their tails between their legs…

Final curtain call for our football trip

A small crunchy moment of the evening, when Andrea Pirlo, a player I admire, approaches to shoot a corner in front of the Curva A but will be able to execute only when the players of Naples themselves will ask the stands to stop throwing bottles in the direction of El Maestro. We were astonished to see that all the fans were getting water bottles, until we realized that it was to throw them open cap on the big net that was protecting the visitor’s section… the water flowing then on the Turin supporters naturally… Naples in a nutshell (laughs).

End of the game and back to the city center to reach our hotel. Our football trip to Naples had now come at an end. We left the next morning on the first plane, with unforgettable memories of what remains today our best stadium adventure. Thank you Naples.

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