Last night our Napoli fan reporter experienced the perfect tonic for Champions League disappointment. Here Alessio Costabile talks Scudettos, all-night celebrations and Victor Osimhen
I’ve always been convinced that the adjective that defines the spirit of Naples and our fans is one and one only: ravenous. The entire region has been preparing – with decorations sprouting up like mushrooms from Naples to Sorrento, all the way to the islands of Ischia and Capri – with the hunger of someone who has been fasting for a long time and starts to nibble at the various courses before they are even ready.
Our famous superstitions have been swept aside; streets have been coloured and decorated, festoons hung from balconies. Our impatience has even been manifest in the Scudetto-themed shopping bags distributed in our grocery shops.
So what can I write after a night like last night? How can I possibly give a taste of what happened – of what is still happening and will keep happening for days, probably for weeks – in the shadow of this sleeping volcano that rears above our home?
As Napoli won its third Scudetto 33 years after the last, the city 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 almost faded flags, with the face of Diego and pictures of the first two titles, finally taken out of retirement to once again be caressed by the wind.
I watched the game in Rome, where I live and work at the moment. I was in a pub called Angeli Rock, near the Basilica di San Paolo Fuorile Mura. 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 01:00, which is pretty quick if you ask me.
Many, like me, did not go to sleep last night, preferring to stay out and celebrate. I have never been without more tears to cry, without more energy to discharge on the streets, without more voice to give to the clouds. Never as I was last night.
Napoli have won the title, and it is something completely different. Because this time it’s happened with a team of young, hungry lads who are destined to become part of the elite of world football in the future, but are not yet fully consecrated. We’ve won without the weight of the greatest player in history to tip the scales on our side, against the overwhelming power of the northern teams. That was unthinkable before this season.
Victor Osimhen is the footballer who embodies the hunger felt by our city. He pounces on spaces like a shark launching towards its prey; no long ball is too long, no idea too outlandish. His hunger for goals is tangibly and visibly painful, and it’s a characteristic that he mixes with a strong understanding of team spirit.
This combination seems to have been driving Napoli fans insane. For months now, baffling tributes to the striker have been multiplying: traditional sweets, Easter eggs, floral compositions. Even building façades are being decorated in a precise colour scheme: the azzurro of our team, the graphite black of the mask that has become his trademark and the bright blonde of his hair. It is an omnipresent celebration worthy of bygone royalty.
As Pino Daniele, the most beloved musician of modern-day Naples, sang in his famous song ’O Scarrafone many years ago: “I was Moroccan, they told me when I was a child. Viva, viva Senegal.” It’s in our destiny that our more recent fortunes are being decided by a young lad born in the same Africa that probably sees in Naples, and in its people, some of its farthest and northernmost sons and daughters.
Later today I’ll return to Naples on a train, to celebrate some more. Because Napoli won, and from now on nothing will ever be the same.
Victor Osimhen is an issue 15 cover star. Click here to buy your copy