Hunger. It’s hunger that moves everything on these European nightsin the azure lion’s den: the Stadio San Paolo. Naples is a hungry city.
Everyone who’s ever been consumed by the visceral, amniotic, oblivious, devouring love of Neapolitan people, who’s been drenched to the bone, gnawed, flayed, carbonised on the altar of eternity, who’s been given everything anyone can ever desire and then torn and ripped apart mercilessly, every divinity who’s walked that grass, every living soul, every white bone resting in our Fontanelle Cemetery can confirm this statement: Naples is, indeed, a hungry place.
You can physically perceive that hunger, from the moment you walk the streets of Fuorigrotta, near the stadium, between empty buildings, with crackling asphalt beneath your soles like dirt in the savannah.
People swarming around you, like blue wasps defending their hive, like fire ants, like members of the last true tribe on Earth. Drums marking the tempo of your steps as you enter your sector. Chills on every inch of your body as you hear your brothers roar at the end of the anthem.
It’s primitive and yet you indulge it, you let your guard down, as the hunger all around you becomes your hunger. And you’re not hungry for blood, not hungry for war or for battle; you’re not hungry for victory either, but hungry for your place in the world. You’re hungry for those lights; you crave them, you want the world to see you, to see your city, not just your team. It’s the most unusual and inexplicable of things: you can be the most refined intellectual in the world and yet, on entering this place, the beast is going to claim your soul on one of those freezing yet scalding European nights.
So, to be brief, what’s it like to attend a Champions League game in Napoli? You enter the stadium, you find your seat (although we prefer to watch standing up)and then the game starts.
And then: just lights, men and a ball.
That and a hunger – a hunger you can’t satisfy.
Simple as that.