A few weeks back I was using the world wide web to procrastinate in my usual fashion: looking up needlessly detailed stats and facts from Serie A. During this prolonged period of life postponement, I stumbled upon a tweet from @brfootball which asked distracted folk like myself to construct a five-a-side team from Serie A ‘legends’.
👇 You have £20 to build your legendary Serie A five-a-side team 👇
Go… 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/gVJlWjdJdt
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 10, 2017
Like many a Napoli supporter, I looked at the list of ‘legends’ and exclaimed a thought, ‘Where the bloody heck are all the Napoli players?’ There was not a single representative from the Azzurri…
I could select the permanently off-side Fillipo Inzaghi but not Diego Armando Maradona.
I could select the equine physiognomy of Rui Costa in midfield but not the leonine inspiration of Marek Hamsik.
In the words of King Alonso, the underrated English writer William Shakespeare’s most high profile Neapolitan, ‘O, it is monstrous, monstrous.’ Struggling to find a clear pathway to right this wrong, I thought of the chaps at Sempre! and, with a little encouragement, I have constructed an all-time five-a-side Napoli team made from the Pantheon of Partenopei.
Here are the five players, and left-field choice of manager, that I chose:-
Goalkeeper: Ottavio Bugatti. (Played for SSC Napoli 1953-1961)
OK. I have a confession to make: I intensely dislike Pepe Reina as a goalkeeper. His wrists have the strength and durability of the sort of toilet paper you have to buy the day before pay-day and I also thought he acted like wally over the summer. Why pick Reina when there is a de-facto cult hero waiting to be picked?
Bugatti was a short goalie. I flippin’ love short goalies (José Campos anyone?) and he has an impressively not too impressive goals conceded ratio – 329 goals in 256 league appearances. We don’t want anyone too defensively impressive in this side. Catenaccio is for some other Serie A team, not the Partenopei. Also, it is vital that this team isn’t crammed with giants – we don’t want our key player to feel left out…
Bugatti sadly passed away last year at the age of 87 in the town of San Pellegrino Terme. It’s an honour to include this former Azzurri captain in my team and I’ll think of the man who single handedly kept John Charles, Omar Sívori and Giampiero Boniperti at bay during the 1961 derby every time I raise a glass of premium mineral water to my lips.
Defender: Ciro Ferrara (Played for SSC Napoli 1984-1994)
The big question here is: Is it ok to like Ciro Ferrara?
Those who would say yes would point out the fact that Napoli’s two Scudetti were won with him in the side, as well as the UEFA Cup and for most of his Napoli career he sporting a permed near-mullet which puts him ahead of the follically challenged Paolo Cannavaro. He’s also from Naples and had a habit of scoring important goals for the team – putting Napoli 2-1 ahead in the UEFA Cup final of 1989.
It is hard to ignore, however, the eleven years of service he gave to that team in Turin. Apparently they won quite a lot of trophies during his time there but his true position as a Neapolitan double agent was proven by his disastrous spell as manager in 2009. Unfortunately directors at that team in Turin discovered this and fired him before he could do true damage.
He makes it in to my team because he was a fantastic defender and a leader of men. He also hasn’t forgotten his roots since retiring and runs a couple of charities that benefit his home town.
Maradona wrote that ‘He was the best friend Napoli gave me’ so that settles that.
Midfielder and Captain: Marek Hamsik (Played for SSC Napoli 2007-)
I love Marek Hamsik for so many reasons it would be hard to put them all down here. Firstly, he wears glasses and, as a talentless youth mucking about on the fields of Cheshire, I broke several pairs of spectacles trying to challenge the unfair assumption that glasses wearers are rubbish at football. Marek, il mio capitano, you have proved the doubters wrong.
He’s also as a close to the complete midfielder as you can get. I love watching him dribble, shoot and pass and his strength is often over-looked – he can wrestle people off the ball at just the right time. He also seems like a bit of nerd and an odd-ball – I spent many years as an unsuccessful teenager in Brighton trying to convince people that oddball nerds can be cool. Il mio capitano, you have proved the doubters wrong.
He’s my favourite player of the 2010’s (what do we call this decade?). Forget the Dolph Ludgren-esque Ronaldo or the strangely hard-to-like Leonel Messi, Hamsik is the man who has entertained with a passion for his club and adopted city beyond all others. The armband is yours, Marek.
Attacker: Diego Armando Maradona (Played for SSC Napoli 1984-1991)
Attacker: Edison Cavani ( Played for SSC Napoli 2010-2013)
This is the hardest slot to fill. I’m sorry Dries, I’m sorry Lorenzo and I’m sorry Careca but Signor Cavani makes it ahead of you. He gave us three seasons of pure joy and seemed to command the pitch with the lava of Vesuvio pumping through his veins.
Cavani’s time signalled the heralding of a new era for the Azzurri. We were no longer a joke – if you didn’t take us seriously then El Matador would punish you. A look at the YouTube videos of his time with Napoli is the perfect tonic for any period of depression for a Napoli fan: Being dumped, losing a limb or even death can be moderately brightened up by the sight of his last minute winner against Lecce or the hat trick he walloped past Lazio in his final season with us.
OK, he left us after only three seasons but all the best love affairs are short and sweet. 104 goals in all competitions in three seasons. That’s craziness. Hopefully, in years to come Messrs Mertens and Insigne can challenge his spot but, for the time being at least, Edison Cavani is leading the line for my five-a-side team.
Manager: Massimo Troisi
The man who I most associate with Naples is not a footballer but the greatest actor of his generation. He also happened to be a huge Napoli fan and so he takes his spot on the bench.
I love Maurizio Sarri but his press conferences are incredibly dull and he often uses words that can be taken against him in the future. This would not be the case with Troisi who is, for me, one of the most watchable actors in the history of cinema.
Like another member of this team, he is also worshipped by the people of Naples. I once spent a most enjoyable week on the island of Procida where Troisi spent a great deal of team filming Il Postino. As a budding film and theatre director, I thought I’d quiz as many locals as possible as to what he was like. I underestimated the regard in which he was held – the most awkward moment being the time a local restaurant owner broke down in tears when describing the last time he saw him.
If you love SSC Napoli, seek out the films of Troisi they are a vital part of the history and lived culture of the area.
So… that’s my team. Please pick your own – let’s get a conversation going. Bear in mind, however, that contrary to popular opinion, football is not objective and my views are always the correct perspective.
By Frank Sidekick Follow @franksidekick
Frank Sidekick is a contrarian who watches too much football. In a parallel life he teaches theatre at a university in the north of England. He loves all things to do with Napoli.