“It is from a Napoli

“If you find me a seat, I’ll offer you the best fish restaurant in town!” At 78, Carlo has seen others, Napoli-Juve, “but this one, frankly…”. His ear glued to his radio, he listens to RadioKissKiss, an antenna almost exclusively devoted to Napoli. The testimonies of the tifosi follow one another with the same fervor: the reception of Juventus, Friday at 8:45 p.m., is “the match of the year”.

The sporting stakes could be enough to make the meeting unmissable. Undisputed leader of Serie A, Napoli are seven points ahead of their Turin runner-up. A success would represent, in fact, one more step towards a Scudetto expected by a whole people for thirty-three years. But facing Juve, one would almost be tempted to say that the essential is elsewhere. “Roma, Inter or Milan, I can discuss with them, but Juve, never!”engages Vincenzo.

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This 50-year-old tifoso sells all sorts of products derived from Napoli on the sly on the city’s port. In the middle of a continuous azure panel formed by its scarves, the Mediterranean and the sky, one distinguishes like a black spot. “This is my ‘Juve Merda’ scarf, I love it!”, laughs Vincenzo. The ode to the Turinese needs no translation, and sounds like a motto of the city in this very special week.


Losing yourself in the Spanish quarters, narrow and popular arteries of Naples, is enough to convince yourself of this. A large banner warns the profane visitor. “You who are from the neighborhood and support Juventus, you are unworthy!”, we read there. Here, garbage bags or rolls of toilet paper with the bianconero crest are sold. There, a bar proudly displays an image of Maurizio Sarri in a Juve tracksuit in a bowl. “But they are the ones who provoke us. They say that Vesuvius has dirty us, whereas we don’t care!”Anna swears, however, behind the checkout of the establishment.

Beating Juve is my strongest wish

In his defense, Naples does not have the monopoly of anti-juventinismo. “Juve are the most supported club in Italy, but they are also the most hated clubpoints out Sébastien Louis, historian specializing in Italian football and author of the book ‘Ultras – the other protagonists of football’. The rivalry is therefore strong, but Napoli also have quite a few enemies. The transfer of Higuain (from Naples to Turin in 2016) has nevertheless strengthened it”.

Aware of this disgust not far from being unanimous – and replaced, failing that, by indifference – the players add a layer of it as soon as they can. “Beating Juve is my strongest wish”said South Korean defender Kim Min-jae in October, shortly after his arrival. “And we love that kind of stuff. Kim, it’s one of the best-selling shirts!”confirms Luigi, seller in an official Napoli store. “And then in Italy, there has always been an opposition between north and south, he continues. Your ‘Welcome to the Ch’tis’, it’s called ‘Welcome to the South’ here!”

Here we are. The famous “territorial question”, omnipresent since Italian unity in 1861, is at the heart of this rivalry. “Naples is the capital of the south par excellence, a bright city with passionate supportersnarrates Sébastien Louis. Turin has long been the capital of the North, along with Milan. We have long seen it as very austere, centered around Fiat and Juve.

The first match was won by the Turinese, thanks to Garibaldi

Before its unity, Italy was made up of a multitude of states. Naples was the radiant capital of the prestigious Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which covered part of the current Mezzogiorno before being annexed by Garibaldian troops from the North. “It was from a Napoli-Juve that Italy was born in 1860, dared the Messaggero, in an article published Thursday morning. The first match, already decisive, was won by the Turinese, thanks to a center forward born in Nice, citizen of the world: Giuseppe Garibaldi.”

This humorous trait reveals wounds that some inhabitants of the city have still not healed. As proof, it is not uncommon to see Neapolitan ultras recall the golden era of their city. “We refer to a mythical time, but it is a historical error, explains Sebastien Louis. The supporters reverse the clichés to show that the South is not the one who benefits, but also had its good times”.

Diego Maradona, an idol in Naples.

Credit: Getty Images

The dynamics of a “two-speed” Italy, where the economic success of the North contrasts with a more backward South (the GDP there is twice as low according to the National Institute of Statistics), are thus truly reflected in this rivalry. “Juve is the club that embodies success par excellencecontinues the historian. For their part, Napoli – with the exception of Cagliari in 1970 – are the only club from the South to have won the Scudetto.”

The two stadiums perfectly illustrate this divide. Diego Armando Maradona, outdated but boiling, contrasts drastically with a flashy Allianz Stadium but whose lack of soul can be seen even in its name.

The aversion is all the more tenacious as the Partenopei, crowned on two small occasions – in 1987 and 1990 – saw their destiny on the meadow closely linked to that of Juve. “The rivalry really took hold in 1975, points out the historian Sébastien Louis, because Napoli finished two points behind Juventus and lost their two confrontations, including a 2-6 at home. The title was played there.” Later, Kalidou Koulibaly’s angry header in Turin in 2018, in a striking but ultimately futile victory, marked the city.

Meanwhile, the duel reached its peak in the 80s, when Diego Maradona crossed paths with Michel Platini and offered Napoli its hours of glory. Friday, the club finds Juve crowned, for the first time since, with a status of favorite. The expectation is such that a victory on Friday would constitute, for the city, an event whose scope would go beyond the footballing sphere.

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