Diego Maradona SSC Napoli

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When the news broke that Diego Maradona had passed away, my thoughts turned to Naples, a city now in mourning. Fans gathered outside Stadio San Paolo on Wednesday night to pay their respects and SSC Napoli, Maradona’s former squad, turned their logo black.

“Everyone is waiting for our words,” said the official statement from Napoli. “But what words can we use for the pain we are experiencing? Now is a moment for tears. Then there will be a time for words.”

The official Twitter account of SSC Napoli was more succinct. “Ho visto Maradona” – I saw Maradona.

The mayor of Naples has now decreed that the city will rename the stadium in Maradona’s honor. Corriere della Sera captured the initial reactions at San Paolo:

Meanwhile, Italy’s main sporting newspapers – Corriere dello Sport and Gazzetto dello Sport – paid tribute to the “Il Più Grande dei Tutti” (The Greatest of All Time) on their front pages:

Maradona died young, at age 60, on 25 November 2020 after a wild and often troubled life. But he meant the world to the city of Naples, where he guided local team Napoli to two Serie A championships during his tenure there between 1984 and 1991. His success at Napoli elevated him to god-like status in a city and a region (Italy’s south) that was desperate for a hero.

Native Neapolitan and current Napoli player wrote a moving tribute to Maradona:

From the first day you arrived in our beloved Naples, you became a true Neapolitan.
You gave everything for your people, you defended this land, you loved it. You gave us joy, smiles, trophies, love.
I grew up hearing my family’s tales of your exploits, seeing and reviewing your endless games. You were the greatest player in history, you were our Diego.
I was lucky enough to meet you, talk to you, know you and I don’t deny that my legs were shaking.
For me you have always had beautiful words, words of comfort that I will never be able to forget and that I will keep forever within me.
As a fan, as a Neapolitan, as a football player: Thanks for everything D10S.
We will always love you.

Lorenzo Insigne on Instagram

Even after more than 30 years since playing his last match for SSC Napoli, the Argentine footballer was still revered in the city as a beloved adopted son and as a god, or “D10s” a single word that is a clever hybrid of Spanish and Maradona’s jersey number. Italians also called him “il Pibe” short for “pibe de oro,” which means Golden Boy in Spanish.

Naples in a nutshell – Maradona as “D10S” on the door of a friggitoria (fried food snack bar) / Photo Melanie Renzulli

Every neighborhood in Naples has a shrine to Maradona. Some are small and earnest while others are larger than life – just like Diego.

The most famous murals of Maradona are the “Murales Maradona” in the Quartiere Spagnoli, which was painted in 1990, and the more recent (2017) large-scale painting of Maradona by Jorit, which dominates the side of an apartment block in the San Giovanni a Teduccio neighborhood.

Finally, an in memoriam about Maradona wouldn’t be complete without the following video. This famous footage of Maradona warming up before Napoli’s 1989 UEFA Cup semi-final against Bayern-Munich is the perfect distillation of the myth of Maradona, a combination of supernatural football talent and an outsized personality. He was an original.

Featured photo via SSC Napoli

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