It is somewhat ironic to see Liverpool warning their fans to treat the trip to Naples like a war zone, with warnings to “remain in their respective hotels to eat and drink” lest they become targets for “petty theft, robbery and assault.”
The irony is that these are two very similar cities, given reputations by the rest of their country that they firmly reject and feeling looked down upon by their fellow countrymen, almost as if they are a separate entity within the state. Above all, they are still dealing with the kind of out-dated, prejudiced attitude from outsiders that simply do not apply in 2019.
How long have Liverpudlians complained that they are treated like criminals, the worst always thought of them, the media and rest of the country at large acting as if they are untrustworthy rapscallions always out to scam people? They try to encourage tourism and investment in the city while others depict it as some crime-infested hellhole.
The Neapolitan equivalent of the Scouser is the Scugnizzo, a local lad who grew up playing football in the streets and whose thick accent can make him at times barely intelligible, but is a real representative of his city in his team. Lorenzo Insigne is that man for Napoli, proudly wearing the captain’s armband, even if at times the pressure of being the only Neapolitan in the starting XI can create extra problems. Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t the captain of Liverpool yet, but then Insigne was the understudy to Marek Hamsik for years.
Like Scouser, the word Scugnizzo can be used as an insult, but should be a term of endearment. That is certainly the role taken on by Dries Mertens, who has earned the nickname Ciro – the most Neapolitan of all names – because he settled so beautifully into the city and embraced its culture. His cheeky sense of humour fits in perfectly with the Neapolitans, because just as Liverpool is known as the town where everyone is a comedian in their own way, it again is mirrored culturally by Naples.
Is there crime? Of course, there is everywhere you go, but Naples and Liverpool are unfairly pilloried by the media and the masses as somehow institutionally corrupt and rotten to the core. This is why it’s so strange to see Liverpool release the statement treating what ought to be their sister city with such contempt and prejudice. Nobody knows more than Liverpudlians how the Neapolitans feel.
It wouldn’t even be so bad if not for the fact Liverpool played Napoli last season with no problems whatsoever. The Napoli ultras are nowadays not really known for causing trouble or getting into clashes. They are fiercely anti-racist, tend to get ambushed rather than attack others and travel in large numbers without issue.
I appreciate Liverpool will be cautious about coming to Italy after the Sean Cox incident, but that was outside the gates of Anfield by two Roma ultras. It is no reason to stop their fans enjoying the sights and tastes of Naples, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
The basic advice I’d give to the Liverpool fans is the same as for any travelling English supporter: continental ideals of appropriate public behaviour are not the same as yours. Don’t take over an entire piazza drinking beer in the sun from 11am to night, getting progressively louder and more aggressive. Don’t shove a local in a fountain. Don’t sing about WWII. Don’t throw chairs, bottles and rubbish around. Definitely do not urinate against buildings or vomit in the street – you’d be surprised how common that one is in England on any Saturday night out, but in Europe it’ll get you arrested.
Other than that, just treat it as you would your own city and things will be fine. Liverpool and Napoli really ought to be twinned, not be frightened of each other.