Insider View: A victory for ‘true’ southern Italy

 ROME - Even before they secured the “Scudetto,” Napoli was triumphant. The city streets were lined with flags and banners celebrating the success of S.S.C. Napoli even before it was con- firmed after a long wait of 33 years since their last Serie A win. Restaurants and shops shut early to watch the games and the city was electric. 

 Napoli’s triumph truly matters for several reasons – it is not only a victory for the city but a victory for southern Italy against its northern rivals. For a city and a football club that had often been looked down upon by its northern rivals, that run of success was an opportunity for the region to proudly express its time on top. 

 For many, this “scudetto” is the first time the “true” South has won the Serie A league, the first time the “true” South has been able to prove that they can do it to. That they can assemble a smart squad that is worthy of winning the most important league in Italian football, and can compete against the richer, northern Italian teams. 

 The worry is however, that these glory days for Napoli are only temporary – much like what happened post their 1990 title success - the Napoli team began to unwind with players departing, leading to a drop in performances. The headline departure came when Maradona failed a drug test and he left Italy in disgrace after being handed a 15-month ban. 

 Following years of steady decline, the club was relegated from Serie A after claiming a miserable 14 points from 34 games. Only eight years after being crowned Italian champion, Napoli found itself in the second tier. When no saviour was in sight, Aurelio de Laurentiis took over and reshaped the club step-by-step. 

 In the 16 years since the club’s return to Serie A, Napoli fans have seen some of Europe’s best players grace the Maradona Stadium pitch – from Edinson Cavani and Higuaín to Dries Mertens and Marek Hamšík – as well as rotating cast of elite managers – Walter Mazzarri, Rafael Benítez, Maurizio Sarri and Carlo Ancelotti have all had stints in the Naples dugout. 

 The 2023 “scudetto” win, for a city that breathes football, has added to the cultural phenomenon of the sport, and confirmed to Neapolitans that they had always been right to hope. For a city like Naples, one that has been subjugated for years socially, it is a story for the ages.