Watch: Wild celebrations in Italy as Napoli win first Serie A title since 1990
Joyous scenes not seen since the days of the late Diego Maradona have come back to Naples after their football team won their first Italian title since 1990.
Napoli clinched the Serie A top spot with a 1-1 draw against Udinese on Thursday night to spark an eruption of celebrating fans in the southwestern city.
It concludes a remarkable turnaround for the club, which struggled financially on and off the pitch after Maradona’s departure in 1991. The sky-blues endured bankruptcy and several relegations to the point of folding as a club in the early 2000s.
The team were refounded in 2004 after being taken over by film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis at a point when they were then struggling in the third division. And, like a classic sports film, they were able to rise back to the top tier by the early 2010s as they became regular challengers for the Serie A crown, known as the Scudetto. However, all previous efforts to win back the championship had fallen just short until now.
Victor Osimhen’s second-half equaliser at the Dacia Arena in Udine gave Napoli an unassailable lead in Serie A and led to rapturous celebrations back home.
The city’s piazzas were crammed with jubilant fans, who lit flares and fireworks as they chanted into the early hours - PA reported.
"Seeing the Partenopei smiling and joyful is the greatest emotion for me,” Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti told DAZN.
“The problem was reaching this point, as when you have the feelings of an entire city weighing on your back.
"It perhaps makes me feel more relaxed now, we’ve been able to give them that joy. These fans have seen huge coaches come and go. They saw Diego Armando Maradona play and perhaps his protection is also felt in this success."
Argentina great Maradona fired Napoli to their first title in 1987 and cemented his hero status with the club by winning a second in 1990.
Napoli also won the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia during Maradona’s spell in the city, but in the 89 years of their history without him the club have only previously won five Italian Cups.
Maradona died in 2020, with the club naming their stadium in his honour.
The victory was perhaps even sweeter for Napoli as the side had been predicted to struggle this year, having lost defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, club legend Lorenzo Insigne and winger Dries Mertens at the start of the campaign. All three took to social media in the aftermath to share their congratulations.
The 2022-23 side has been built around Omishen, the Nigerian who has become the most sought-after striker in Europe.
"I’m happy for all Napoli fans worldwide," Osimhen said. "No one deserves the scudetto more than Neapolitans — more than us.
"I don’t care who scored, I just wanted to get the scudetto."
Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have now earned their mural spots on the walls of Naples alongside Maradona.
Local police chief Claudio Palomba said while there were dozens of fireworks-related injuries, the title was celebrated in an orderly way.
"The organisational plan worked and the authorities maintained order," he told AP.
One man died in Napoli from a gunshot wound although local police have since moved to say this was unrelated.
There were also celebrations in numerous other cities throughout Italy, plus New York and other places in the vast Neapolitan diaspora.
The Napoli squad is due to return to Naples later on Friday, and there will no doubt be more celebrations upon the players’ arrival, as well as during the team’s next game against Fiorentina at home on Sunday.
Then there are plans for multiple festivities around the city on June 4 when Napoli receives the Serie A trophy following the final game of the season.
Visti i tanti complimenti ricevuti in questi anni non potevamo esimerci 😄
Congratulazioni al @sscnapoli per la conquista del suo terzo scudetto!
— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) May 4, 2023
Not everyone was so happy, however,
“Considering all the compliments we received from you in recent years, we could not shy away from doing the same,” Juventus - one of Napoli’s longtime title rivals wrote in a pithy tweet. “Congratulations to Napoli for the achievement of your third Scudetto!”