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Saturday July 5 2014
Ho visto Maradona

July 5, 1984 is a day no Napoli supporter can forget, the day Diego Maradona was presented at the San Paolo. Dave Taylor was there.

Fuorigrotta is no different from many other parts of Naples, neither rich nor particularly poor. However, where it does differ is that slap-bang right in the middle is that concrete cathedral of broken dreams and intractable matchday majesty, the San Paolo stadium. Precisely 30 years ago today Diego Maradona popped in for an historic day that changed the face of Serie A.

It was a day like no other in Naples with over 100,000 devotees waiting for their new Messiah to arrive in their ancient, forgotten city. There, in a non-descript western suburb under a scorching hot sun in July 1984, something happened for those disciples, a miracle that changed Italian football forever.

On the fifth day, like a returning Messiah, Maradona descended from the endless blue Campania sky into the San Paolo stadium to alter the dynamics of Serie A. For the next seven years the Argentinean helped Napoli smash the hegemony of the major northern clubs and inspire the Southerners to undreamt levels of success.

Hours before his arrival, the Fuorigrotta air was saturated with prayers and dreams, as a festival of flags and a backdrop of banners proclaimed the second coming.

Packets of pirated Marlboro rebranded as Maradona cigarettes were selling like, well, like cheap cigarettes. Bootleg cassettes of Napoli’s most popular song, ‘Ho Visto Maradona’, boomed out of roadside traders’ tape recorders: 2,000 lire a pop.

There were posters of Diego, light blue ribbons, black curly wigs and the incomparable No 10 shirt in Napoli and Argentina colours. You name it and if Diego’s name or face could be fitted on it, from T-shirts to tea towels, it was there to be bought.

Touts selling tickets to see the new Eighth Wonder of the World lapped it up with reports that some 2,000 lire tickets went for 50,000, £150 in today’s money. Diego fever had hit town and it was a time like no other.

Entering the stadium in a helicopter, he stepped out on to the turf and 70,000 tifosi made such a noise it felt that the neighbouring volcano of Vesuvius had erupted and then again, as the 30,000 locked outside picked up on the vibe.

However, seconds later with their new hero obscured by obstinate cameramen and the rest of the mendacious media, the Napoli fans felt cheated. Angry and threatening they demanded he should enter the stadium again, this time from the players’ exit. A few minutes later Il Pibe duly obliged and a fresh eruption of fireworks, streamers and the chant of ‘Ole Ole Ole Ole, Diego, Diego’, rebounded around the concrete canyon.

Dressed in a white T-shirt and light-blue trousers, he waved, shook his fist and blew exaggerated kisses. Surrounded by cameramen Diego suddenly broke free and ran round the pitch stopping now and then to blow kisses. What was meant to be a quick introduction turned into a mutual love-fest with a soundtrack of deafening chanting.

Strolling across the pitch he took an exquisite, effortless free-kick and pinged the ball in off the post from 35 yards. Taking a microphone he shouted: “Good evening Neapolitans.” Suddenly the God of sound turned down the volume, an eerie silence descended before he added: “I am very happy to be with you.” The roar erupted again as he donned a club scarf and entertained everyone with a ball-juggling act before kicking it high into the stands and departing with a: “Forza Napoli.”

In moments he was gone, swallowed up by the media scrum and disappeared back down the tunnel. Outside on the terraces the stadium literally bounced as 140,000 feet stamped along with Diego’s hymn: “Oh Mama mama mama, Do you know why my heart beats? I have seen Maradona, I have seen Maradona, And mamma I am in love.”

Il Pibe eventually came to mean something to Naples that is almost too complex to explain. Without ever seeing him, or knowing a Neapolitan at that time, it is impossible to conceive what he meant to the people of that sprawling, almost third world city.

He was loved immediately on his arrival. He was every mother’s son, everyone’s brother, every girl’s boyfriend. He was the man who would show the rest of the world that Napoli could and would teach everyone else how to play football.  

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Have your say...
@ marafan a really good blog and heart warming to hear from a Neapolitan fan expressing what I originally blogged seems some time now. Well done!

Now the WC is over I don't wish to rub it in but I am going to let my nostalgia take over:
Maradona not only is he "meglio e Pele" but I hope this WC will now close the argument and confirm that Maradona is even "meglio e Messi".

Nice to see that even Maradona a die hard for his nation stated that Messi did not deserve the Golden Ball Award.
on the 14th July, 2014 at 11:34am
I was at the San Paolo that night in 1990 when Agentina beat Italy on penalties.The days leading up to the game all the talk in Italy was if they would cheer or boo Maradona at the San Paolo.I can also tell you that the cheer I heard coming from the crowd that night went "maradona figlio di p_tana".Now I am a neopoltan and a huge maradona fan but that night there was only one team everyone's heart was with Italia.As we filed out you could hear a pin drop that night.1 of the best Italy teams ever
on the 11th July, 2014 at 1:08am
@goisis88 I was talking about current players and just off the top of my head we could choose from the following strikers Immobile, Qualiarella, Di Natale, Insigne, Floro Flores, Borriello, In defence Criscito, Bocchetti, Cannavaro, Sardo, D'Ambrosio In midfield Nocerino, Lodi, Stendardo. Having trouble with a goalie as I can only think of Coppola or sorrentino but not sure if they have retired. I think it would give the current team a good game!
on the 7th July, 2014 at 10:40pm
Dario, I like your suggestion to create an all-time best Nazionale line-up made of purely Neopolitani players! Can you do this?
on the 7th July, 2014 at 10:10am
Coincidentally I just finished watching a program I have never seen before on Maradona & Napoli. A journalist summed it up perfectly in Italian. Messi is the icing on a cake where as Maradona at Napoli was the cake. He went on to add Maradona brought out the best of his team mates at Napoli in every game. Messi was already brought into a great team.If anyone has seen this correct me if I am wrong.
on the 6th July, 2014 at 11:20am
Being of siciian background, I've heard many a tale of racism against southerners. Napoli were the standard bearers for the south and when Napoli won the league and into Europe, it wasn't just a victory for naples, but for the south of Italy. A victory over the north. Remember as well that Maradona had a great team around him, Careca, et al... Destiny brought naples and maradona together - heady, glorious days. Btw Aussie Bob, realised u were joking - and Napoli weren't lucky -they had maradona!
on the 6th July, 2014 at 10:40am
@d-man Neopolitans did not choose Maradona over Italy we simply did not boo the Argentine national anthem like they did in other parts of Italy simply because he was a Napoli player and the best that ever walked. Pure jealousy from the mainly Northern supporters. Napoli is still booed at every game by northern teams. They seem to forget the great Neopolitan players that have played for Italy. In fact a team made up of entirely Neoploitans would probably beat the current Italy team!
on the 6th July, 2014 at 7:24am
@D-Man Before you make any comment you should feel what it was & is like to be a "Southerner". Even here so far away we second generation Southerners had to fight racism from the few Northern Italians here & racism from Australians for being Italian! Maybe some of you who live in the UK may understand. So can you blame the
Neopolitans? Even here when we where asked years ago we used to say we were Neopolitans first & Italians second.
on the 6th July, 2014 at 4:05am
@ D Man cont.....Guess what the Berlin Wall has come down and Germany are one united country but, you still live in the dark ages of North and South. Italy is no longer the two Sicily we are all one united country. You may wish to tell that to all your associated background to educate them. I urge you to go and watch a game when Italy play (a) in the San Paolo and (b) in any other parts of Italy and I can assure you that the passion and their love of the Azzurri is just as much. Then you decide?
on the 6th July, 2014 at 1:55am
Thank you @Ausie Bob! @ D Man however, your comments are just from bitterness of a myth that was suggested shamefully by Bergomi at a press conference after that game. So shame on him as an Italian. I can tell you that he was highly criticised after that game from the media and his fellow players. (His Italian career to a dive after that). You are carrying this I'm guessing because of where your Italian background is from.
on the 6th July, 2014 at 1:40am
I am not from Naples and I dont know what emotions he brought but I love football and never in my life had i seen a player destroy 2 nations as he did in 86 world cup against England but especially Belgium. Until then I saw great play thru compilations of great goals or players but to watch live as 1 man took on a team for over an hour seemed impossible. Even a simple pass was done with incredible skill. Apologies to other players but nobody comes close in my view.
on the 5th July, 2014 at 11:36pm
@ papaberts - your not pathetic, its something many people will never understand & its even hard to try & explain the emotions.
on the 5th July, 2014 at 10:10pm
d man they booed the argentine anthem, how did they go against Italy? I suspect your just talking out of your backside
on the 5th July, 2014 at 9:33pm
I remember it well Grazie Diego e forza Napoli
on the 5th July, 2014 at 9:07pm
Neopolitans chose Maradona over Italy in the the 1990 World Cup. That was the power of Maradona. Shame on you Napoli for going against Italy.
on the 5th July, 2014 at 7:52pm
Thank you Dave my God you have taken me back! What nostalgia! I will never forget my Nonno calling me from Naples saying "Hai sentito a chi abbiamo comprato!" (well in Neapolitan dialect!) This article is bringing me a lump to my throat (pathetic I know but you need to be Neapolitan and been there to know!) There is another song and it goes "Maradona e meglio Pele". My fellow Neapolitan bloggers will know it too well!
on the 5th July, 2014 at 12:22pm
Now Messi go on and win WC! You may never steal the hearts of us Napoli fans, but you may, and its a big may possibly take the crown of the new great Argentinian and only with that WC in your hand will you ever be closely considered at the Worlds Greatest Player. However, I still believe that the Greatest EVER will always be DIEGO ARMANDO MARADONA! (I know bloggers a bit too deep but I lived the dream in my teens during the Napoli Maradona years).
Grazie Diego and thank you Nonno (now in heaven)
on the 5th July, 2014 at 11:53am
Maradona was more than a footballer. Maradona + Naples is more than a footballer and a city. You can describe the city by its appearance and you can describe Maradona on a pitch technically, but its hard to describe Naples as a city and its hard to describe Maradona as a person and adding those two elements - well - its a bit like seeing a beautiful sky - you can see it, you can feel it, you can sense it, but you cant explain why its how it is.
on the 5th July, 2014 at 9:54am
Great article
on the 5th July, 2014 at 9:52am

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