The visual anatomy of Napoli’s historic Scudetto according to the lens of Fabien Scotti
Everybody loves an underdog story, until the crushing defeat, and the grief of the hopes that were. Club football is a cold space, where the pragmatism of financial muscle generally prevails, often testing – stretching – the loyalty of the romantic. For the better part of the last decade, SSC Napoli played an extravagant style of football in the, perhaps stereotypically, more austere Serie A, but the inevitability of losing to the hegemons from the north turned the club’s former glory into an increasingly distant memory. The closer the Azzurri got to heaven, the harder the fall. Napoli was a portrait of the archetypical challenger, a secondary role in the film of the top Italian league; one of striped shirts and socioeconomic inequality between North and South.
Few predicted a different outcome when the most recent season started in the summer of 2022, especially considering the departure of several club legends. But as the campaign unfolded, the traditional flair of this revamped Napoli side kept translating into wins, giving way to optimism that things would turn out better this time. On this Sunday, the 2022-23 season is coming to a close, with the team playing its final match of the Serie A season against last-place Sampdoria. The game is merely an occasion, its mathematical outcome largely irrelevant: Napoli were already crowned champions weeks ago. However, this afternoon constitutes more than a coronation. For the club and its supporters alike, it is a window for pure exultation; free of expectation or dread, of the things that were and the things that aren’t. Draped in blue, the streets serve as a gallery of this shared sense of euphoria.
Napoli had not won the Scudetto since 1990, when ‘El Pibe de Oro’ last lifted the city into football immortality. Both the photographs and the lineups of that squad offer a glimpse of the pre-Bosman era. Of a different time. This 2022-23 Napoli side had a different face. Culturally diverse, this team resonated with the city through the fibers of its different communities, and with the globalized world at large. Coalesced into a coherent whole, the idiosyncracies of the players, and the plurality of their stories, gave the team features for many to relate to. Again, at last, as victors. But the mask, not one of hiding, but of collective affirmation, remains the same. It transcends time, victory or defeat. For the Napoli faithful, old and young, local and foreign, the years of frustration, now dissipating amid the smoke in the light blue sky of the city, made the wait all the more worth it.
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