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Interview

Maximum volume

There’s plenty of noise around Napoli these days – but it’s beloved stadium announcer Daniele ‘Decibel’ Bellini who sets the tone

WORDS Sheridan Bird

Playing a Champions League match in Naples is a 360-degree experience for the opposition team, their fans and travelling journalists. The famous bay city neither dithers nor dallies, offering an arresting combination of sights, emotions, flavours and sounds. And that counts double at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where pitchside announcer Daniele Bellini completes the sonic landscape. 

This shaven-headed man has become a must-see attraction since taking the job in 2010 – and his rise to prominence has coincided with a new golden era for the team. Three Coppa Italias, an Italian Super Cup and the fluid, devastating side built by Maurizio Sarri, which amassed a mammoth 91 points in 2017/18 but still missed out on the Scudetto. That was rectified under Luciano Spalletti last season, though, when the club swept to a third league title 33 years after their last.

These wonderful memories have all been accented by the deep tones of Bellini, otherwise known as Decibel; he is such a fixture at home matches that it’s almost impossible to imagine a time without him. However, this relationship began via a slice of luck. “I was working for the local radio station, which was partnered with the club, and they needed someone new to take over the stadium announcer role in 2010,” he says. “The person who was supposed to assume the job couldn’t do it, so I went in his place. He never came back and I have been here ever since. I was very lucky.” 

The 42-year-old is part of the furniture at the stadium, which is perhaps the fates making up for previous absences. “When I was a boy, my mum wouldn’t let me go to matches! She was a bit worried. Then, when I was around 15 or 16, I started going.” Although he loves Serie A, the Champions League is special. “They are magical nights – you feel alive.” 

It’s not all hard work: Bellini in Capri with former Napoli ace Jorginho (above); Bellini raising the roof during Napoli’s title celebrations (right)

Last season’s European campaign was far from stingy with the magic dust at a stadium once known as the San Paolo. “The matches against Ajax and Liverpool made me so happy, because you are living through extraordinary moments and watching fantastic performances,” says Bellini. “Plus, I love seeing all the star players who come to challenge us at the Maradona.” 

Bellini has forged strong bonds with several players, which is a feat in modern football when ‘the talent’ is often kept from any distractions off the pitch. “I have always been close to Jorginho, who is now at Arsenal. He’s a really nice guy. I also got on with Kalidou Koulibaly. I’ve developed a soft spot for Chelsea [where both played]; I like London a lot and have seen matches at Stamford Bridge.” However, his most cherished friendship is with Napoli’s most famous Belgian son. “I was the DJ at Dries Mertens’ wedding in Belgium. It was a lovely party with lots of footballers. He is an extraordinary guy and deserves all the success he’s had and that will come his way.” 

Just like the players, Bellini looks after himself so he can get through the sheer volume of games. “I try not to force my voice on the eve of big matches, always keep my throat warm and do a few voice exercises. On the day of a Champions League match, I study the names beforehand and go to the stadium a few hours before kick-off to make sure everything is in place and the microphone works. It’s a long day. I announce the names of the opposition without many problems – although if we are playing against a team from eastern Europe, it can be tricky. Of course, we have had some huge names here in recent seasons, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which is wonderful not only because of their ability but because it shows that Napoli are at the top.” 

“For me, Naples comes before everything. I was born here”

Bellini is also a huge admirer of Napoli’s revelatory winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. “He was very helpful in telling us how to pronounce his name! And he has got a good sense of humour, playing up to the fact that his surname is tricky to pronounce. And now he is in the hearts of all the fans.” 

It’s often a reciprocal relationship, because so many stars have fallen in love with the vibrant southern Italian city. What makes the allure so powerful? “For me, Naples comes before everything,” says Bellini. “I was born here and I support the team. We are the only large one-team city in Italy; all the passion of the fans means we go mad for them. I feel that warmth too: people stop me in the street to ask for selfies or a chat.” 

When Napoli drew 1-1 at Udinese on 4 May, their long-held dream finally came true: the Azzurri were champions of Italy for the first time since 1990. The party – or, rather, parties – started. “We showed the game on huge screens at our stadium and, as soon as it finished, the first celebrations began,” says Bellini. “The atmosphere was amazing. I did a DJ set and we danced and sang; the stadium was packed. Then more festivities when we played Fiorentina, our first home game as champions, and then the same again after we hosted Inter. And there was a private event we had with the players to commemorate the Scudetto.” 

Speaking to Champions Journal from his holiday in Greece, Bellini forgets to mention the actual medal and trophy presentation after the last fixture of the campaign at the Maradona, against Sampdoria. Still, you can forgive him for losing track amid the revelry – after all, it’s not every day you end a 33-year wait to win the league title. 

Insight
'Tears and fireworks'

What was it like to be a Napoli supporter as the club cantered towards that incredible league win? Champions Journalist fan reporter Alessio Costabile does his best to put it all into words

Since Napoli won the Serie A title, the fans have had to bid “Ciao Mister” to heroic manager Luciano Spalletti, who is taking a well-earned sabbatical. The extent of his effect on the club was illustrated by a group of ultras returning the 64-year-old’s steering wheel as a parting gift; they’d stolen it the previous season in an effort to force him out when results weren’t going so well. Of course, the passion of Napoli’s supporters is well documented. Here Alessio describes the euphoria he felt when the Azzurri sealed the title thanks to a 1-1 draw at Udinese in early May.

“I’ve always been convinced that the adjective which defines the spirit of Naples and our fans is ‘ravenous’. Before the title was confirmed, the entire region prepared with the hunger of someone ending a long fast and nibbling at the various courses before they are even ready. Decorations sprouted like mushrooms from Naples to Sorrento, all the way to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

“I watched the Udinese game in a pub in Rome, where I live and work at the moment. As soon as the final whistle blew, I jumped in my friend Tulio’s car and we drove the two-and-a-half hours to Naples; all the way there we blasted out stadium hymns. We arrived at 1am, which is pretty quick if you ask me.

“The city had exploded with tears and fireworks. I saw people crying and hugging in the street, on the roofs of parading cars, jumping around with mothers and fathers. I saw old, patchy and faded flags, often projecting the distinct features of Diego Maradona and images of the first two titles. They’d finally been taken out of retirement, allowed to once again feel the wind’s caress.

“Many, like me, did not go to sleep that night, preferring to stay out and celebrate. I have never before cried so many tears, discharged so much energy on the streets; I have never before given more voice to the clouds. Never as I did that night. Because Napoli won and, from now on, nothing will ever be the same.”

Playing a Champions League match in Naples is a 360-degree experience for the opposition team, their fans and travelling journalists. The famous bay city neither dithers nor dallies, offering an arresting combination of sights, emotions, flavours and sounds. And that counts double at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where pitchside announcer Daniele Bellini completes the sonic landscape. 

This shaven-headed man has become a must-see attraction since taking the job in 2010 – and his rise to prominence has coincided with a new golden era for the team. Three Coppa Italias, an Italian Super Cup and the fluid, devastating side built by Maurizio Sarri, which amassed a mammoth 91 points in 2017/18 but still missed out on the Scudetto. That was rectified under Luciano Spalletti last season, though, when the club swept to a third league title 33 years after their last.

These wonderful memories have all been accented by the deep tones of Bellini, otherwise known as Decibel; he is such a fixture at home matches that it’s almost impossible to imagine a time without him. However, this relationship began via a slice of luck. “I was working for the local radio station, which was partnered with the club, and they needed someone new to take over the stadium announcer role in 2010,” he says. “The person who was supposed to assume the job couldn’t do it, so I went in his place. He never came back and I have been here ever since. I was very lucky.” 

The 42-year-old is part of the furniture at the stadium, which is perhaps the fates making up for previous absences. “When I was a boy, my mum wouldn’t let me go to matches! She was a bit worried. Then, when I was around 15 or 16, I started going.” Although he loves Serie A, the Champions League is special. “They are magical nights – you feel alive.” 

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It’s not all hard work: Bellini in Capri with former Napoli ace Jorginho (above); Bellini raising the roof during Napoli’s title celebrations (right)

Last season’s European campaign was far from stingy with the magic dust at a stadium once known as the San Paolo. “The matches against Ajax and Liverpool made me so happy, because you are living through extraordinary moments and watching fantastic performances,” says Bellini. “Plus, I love seeing all the star players who come to challenge us at the Maradona.” 

Bellini has forged strong bonds with several players, which is a feat in modern football when ‘the talent’ is often kept from any distractions off the pitch. “I have always been close to Jorginho, who is now at Arsenal. He’s a really nice guy. I also got on with Kalidou Koulibaly. I’ve developed a soft spot for Chelsea [where both played]; I like London a lot and have seen matches at Stamford Bridge.” However, his most cherished friendship is with Napoli’s most famous Belgian son. “I was the DJ at Dries Mertens’ wedding in Belgium. It was a lovely party with lots of footballers. He is an extraordinary guy and deserves all the success he’s had and that will come his way.” 

Just like the players, Bellini looks after himself so he can get through the sheer volume of games. “I try not to force my voice on the eve of big matches, always keep my throat warm and do a few voice exercises. On the day of a Champions League match, I study the names beforehand and go to the stadium a few hours before kick-off to make sure everything is in place and the microphone works. It’s a long day. I announce the names of the opposition without many problems – although if we are playing against a team from eastern Europe, it can be tricky. Of course, we have had some huge names here in recent seasons, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which is wonderful not only because of their ability but because it shows that Napoli are at the top.” 

“For me, Naples comes before everything. I was born here”

Bellini is also a huge admirer of Napoli’s revelatory winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. “He was very helpful in telling us how to pronounce his name! And he has got a good sense of humour, playing up to the fact that his surname is tricky to pronounce. And now he is in the hearts of all the fans.” 

It’s often a reciprocal relationship, because so many stars have fallen in love with the vibrant southern Italian city. What makes the allure so powerful? “For me, Naples comes before everything,” says Bellini. “I was born here and I support the team. We are the only large one-team city in Italy; all the passion of the fans means we go mad for them. I feel that warmth too: people stop me in the street to ask for selfies or a chat.” 

When Napoli drew 1-1 at Udinese on 4 May, their long-held dream finally came true: the Azzurri were champions of Italy for the first time since 1990. The party – or, rather, parties – started. “We showed the game on huge screens at our stadium and, as soon as it finished, the first celebrations began,” says Bellini. “The atmosphere was amazing. I did a DJ set and we danced and sang; the stadium was packed. Then more festivities when we played Fiorentina, our first home game as champions, and then the same again after we hosted Inter. And there was a private event we had with the players to commemorate the Scudetto.” 

Speaking to Champions Journal from his holiday in Greece, Bellini forgets to mention the actual medal and trophy presentation after the last fixture of the campaign at the Maradona, against Sampdoria. Still, you can forgive him for losing track amid the revelry – after all, it’s not every day you end a 33-year wait to win the league title. 

Insight
'Tears and fireworks'

What was it like to be a Napoli supporter as the club cantered towards that incredible league win? Champions Journalist fan reporter Alessio Costabile does his best to put it all into words

Since Napoli won the Serie A title, the fans have had to bid “Ciao Mister” to heroic manager Luciano Spalletti, who is taking a well-earned sabbatical. The extent of his effect on the club was illustrated by a group of ultras returning the 64-year-old’s steering wheel as a parting gift; they’d stolen it the previous season in an effort to force him out when results weren’t going so well. Of course, the passion of Napoli’s supporters is well documented. Here Alessio describes the euphoria he felt when the Azzurri sealed the title thanks to a 1-1 draw at Udinese in early May.

“I’ve always been convinced that the adjective which defines the spirit of Naples and our fans is ‘ravenous’. Before the title was confirmed, the entire region prepared with the hunger of someone ending a long fast and nibbling at the various courses before they are even ready. Decorations sprouted like mushrooms from Naples to Sorrento, all the way to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

“I watched the Udinese game in a pub in Rome, where I live and work at the moment. As soon as the final whistle blew, I jumped in my friend Tulio’s car and we drove the two-and-a-half hours to Naples; all the way there we blasted out stadium hymns. We arrived at 1am, which is pretty quick if you ask me.

“The city had exploded with tears and fireworks. I saw people crying and hugging in the street, on the roofs of parading cars, jumping around with mothers and fathers. I saw old, patchy and faded flags, often projecting the distinct features of Diego Maradona and images of the first two titles. They’d finally been taken out of retirement, allowed to once again feel the wind’s caress.

“Many, like me, did not go to sleep that night, preferring to stay out and celebrate. I have never before cried so many tears, discharged so much energy on the streets; I have never before given more voice to the clouds. Never as I did that night. Because Napoli won and, from now on, nothing will ever be the same.”

Playing a Champions League match in Naples is a 360-degree experience for the opposition team, their fans and travelling journalists. The famous bay city neither dithers nor dallies, offering an arresting combination of sights, emotions, flavours and sounds. And that counts double at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where pitchside announcer Daniele Bellini completes the sonic landscape. 

This shaven-headed man has become a must-see attraction since taking the job in 2010 – and his rise to prominence has coincided with a new golden era for the team. Three Coppa Italias, an Italian Super Cup and the fluid, devastating side built by Maurizio Sarri, which amassed a mammoth 91 points in 2017/18 but still missed out on the Scudetto. That was rectified under Luciano Spalletti last season, though, when the club swept to a third league title 33 years after their last.

These wonderful memories have all been accented by the deep tones of Bellini, otherwise known as Decibel; he is such a fixture at home matches that it’s almost impossible to imagine a time without him. However, this relationship began via a slice of luck. “I was working for the local radio station, which was partnered with the club, and they needed someone new to take over the stadium announcer role in 2010,” he says. “The person who was supposed to assume the job couldn’t do it, so I went in his place. He never came back and I have been here ever since. I was very lucky.” 

The 42-year-old is part of the furniture at the stadium, which is perhaps the fates making up for previous absences. “When I was a boy, my mum wouldn’t let me go to matches! She was a bit worried. Then, when I was around 15 or 16, I started going.” Although he loves Serie A, the Champions League is special. “They are magical nights – you feel alive.” 

It’s not all hard work: Bellini in Capri with former Napoli ace Jorginho (above); Bellini raising the roof during Napoli’s title celebrations (right)

Last season’s European campaign was far from stingy with the magic dust at a stadium once known as the San Paolo. “The matches against Ajax and Liverpool made me so happy, because you are living through extraordinary moments and watching fantastic performances,” says Bellini. “Plus, I love seeing all the star players who come to challenge us at the Maradona.” 

Bellini has forged strong bonds with several players, which is a feat in modern football when ‘the talent’ is often kept from any distractions off the pitch. “I have always been close to Jorginho, who is now at Arsenal. He’s a really nice guy. I also got on with Kalidou Koulibaly. I’ve developed a soft spot for Chelsea [where both played]; I like London a lot and have seen matches at Stamford Bridge.” However, his most cherished friendship is with Napoli’s most famous Belgian son. “I was the DJ at Dries Mertens’ wedding in Belgium. It was a lovely party with lots of footballers. He is an extraordinary guy and deserves all the success he’s had and that will come his way.” 

Just like the players, Bellini looks after himself so he can get through the sheer volume of games. “I try not to force my voice on the eve of big matches, always keep my throat warm and do a few voice exercises. On the day of a Champions League match, I study the names beforehand and go to the stadium a few hours before kick-off to make sure everything is in place and the microphone works. It’s a long day. I announce the names of the opposition without many problems – although if we are playing against a team from eastern Europe, it can be tricky. Of course, we have had some huge names here in recent seasons, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which is wonderful not only because of their ability but because it shows that Napoli are at the top.” 

“For me, Naples comes before everything. I was born here”

Bellini is also a huge admirer of Napoli’s revelatory winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. “He was very helpful in telling us how to pronounce his name! And he has got a good sense of humour, playing up to the fact that his surname is tricky to pronounce. And now he is in the hearts of all the fans.” 

It’s often a reciprocal relationship, because so many stars have fallen in love with the vibrant southern Italian city. What makes the allure so powerful? “For me, Naples comes before everything,” says Bellini. “I was born here and I support the team. We are the only large one-team city in Italy; all the passion of the fans means we go mad for them. I feel that warmth too: people stop me in the street to ask for selfies or a chat.” 

When Napoli drew 1-1 at Udinese on 4 May, their long-held dream finally came true: the Azzurri were champions of Italy for the first time since 1990. The party – or, rather, parties – started. “We showed the game on huge screens at our stadium and, as soon as it finished, the first celebrations began,” says Bellini. “The atmosphere was amazing. I did a DJ set and we danced and sang; the stadium was packed. Then more festivities when we played Fiorentina, our first home game as champions, and then the same again after we hosted Inter. And there was a private event we had with the players to commemorate the Scudetto.” 

Speaking to Champions Journal from his holiday in Greece, Bellini forgets to mention the actual medal and trophy presentation after the last fixture of the campaign at the Maradona, against Sampdoria. Still, you can forgive him for losing track amid the revelry – after all, it’s not every day you end a 33-year wait to win the league title. 

Insight
'Tears and fireworks'

What was it like to be a Napoli supporter as the club cantered towards that incredible league win? Champions Journalist fan reporter Alessio Costabile does his best to put it all into words

Since Napoli won the Serie A title, the fans have had to bid “Ciao Mister” to heroic manager Luciano Spalletti, who is taking a well-earned sabbatical. The extent of his effect on the club was illustrated by a group of ultras returning the 64-year-old’s steering wheel as a parting gift; they’d stolen it the previous season in an effort to force him out when results weren’t going so well. Of course, the passion of Napoli’s supporters is well documented. Here Alessio describes the euphoria he felt when the Azzurri sealed the title thanks to a 1-1 draw at Udinese in early May.

“I’ve always been convinced that the adjective which defines the spirit of Naples and our fans is ‘ravenous’. Before the title was confirmed, the entire region prepared with the hunger of someone ending a long fast and nibbling at the various courses before they are even ready. Decorations sprouted like mushrooms from Naples to Sorrento, all the way to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

“I watched the Udinese game in a pub in Rome, where I live and work at the moment. As soon as the final whistle blew, I jumped in my friend Tulio’s car and we drove the two-and-a-half hours to Naples; all the way there we blasted out stadium hymns. We arrived at 1am, which is pretty quick if you ask me.

“The city had exploded with tears and fireworks. I saw people crying and hugging in the street, on the roofs of parading cars, jumping around with mothers and fathers. I saw old, patchy and faded flags, often projecting the distinct features of Diego Maradona and images of the first two titles. They’d finally been taken out of retirement, allowed to once again feel the wind’s caress.

“Many, like me, did not go to sleep that night, preferring to stay out and celebrate. I have never before cried so many tears, discharged so much energy on the streets; I have never before given more voice to the clouds. Never as I did that night. Because Napoli won and, from now on, nothing will ever be the same.”

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