Some couples are destined to be together and none make perfect sense more than Diego Maradona and Napoli. Diego Armando Maradona arrived at Napoli from Barcelona on July 5 1984, and went on a journey from being labelled a "Sudaca" at Barcelona to becoming one of the greatest players football has ever witnessed.
Diego Maradona immediately felt at home after arriving in Naples having grown up in extreme poverty in the suburbs of Buenos Aires Argentina. Right from his childhood, Maradona always sided with the poor and the oppressed. His former club Boca Juniors were the team of the working class who battled against the team of the upper-class River Plate. After leaving Barcelona, the diminutive midfielder found a team of his heart in Napoli. A city, a public, a team that had the same problems as he did while growing up.
Napoli wasn't a city for the rich, it was a dysfunctional city which had a huge passion for football. On Maradona's first day as a player at Napoli, he said "I want to be the Idol of the poor children of Naples because they are like I was when I lived in Buenos Aires. The man who travelled to Barcelona to negotiate Maradona's signing Antonio Juliano told Maradona that he would become a living "god" if he joined Napoli and that his people would die for him.
Maradona became absolutely sure of this when the people of Napoli made donations on the streets as Barcelona's president demanded an extra £500,000 for the transfer to go through. Maradona arrived at his presentation by helicopter to the Napoli stadium which was flowing with 70,000 fans screaming and chanting "Ho Visto Maradona", "Ho Visto Maradona" which means "I saw Maradona", "I saw Maradona".
Before Maradona arrived at Napoli, a team from the southern part of Italy had never won the league. His new club Napoli had just avoided relegation weeks before his signing. Although Napoli had good players in their team like Salvatore Bagni, Ciro Ferrara and Gianfranco Zola, it was clear that without Maradona Napoli could not have won the scudetto.
There were many highlights in Maradona's time at Napoli, such as the impudent one-step free-kick into the top corner to secure a first win over Juventus in 12 years (5 Napoli fans fainted inside the stadium !!!), but nothing will top the celebrations of their scudetto win in 1987 which went on till their penultimate game against Roberto Baggio's Fiorentina.
Neapolitans took to the streets and the city was brought to a standstill as people enjoyed the party of their lives, a party which lasted a month. Teenagers donned curly wigs, while locals held mock funerals by carrying a coffin of Juventus flag on the streets. After decades of abuse and suffering both on and off the pitch, the oppressed Neapolitans could not hold the tears having toppled the ruling class and this achievement made Maradona a special figure in Napoli.
In the final weeks leading to their scudetto win, the Lord's Prayer was changed in Neapolitan households. It read:
"Our Maradona, who takes the field, we have hallowed thy name, Thy kingdom is Napoli, Lead us not into disappointment, But deliver us the title, Amen".
And indeed Diego Armando Maradona led them to the title, and that is why no Napoli fan or supporter can ever speak badly of Maradona.
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