My love for Napoli started over ten years ago when I visited the sunny peninsula back in 2007. Every morning I’d wake up to the cocks crowing and the stray dogs barking, making it often a short and disturbed sleep, but was very worth it in the end. That summer was a very special time for me as I experienced my heritage, culture and met my big warm welcoming Neapolitan family for the first time. Both of my parents were born near the city of Naples and immigrated to Canada.
Being from Canada with Neapolitan blood in me, I had no problem fitting in with the locals but was always mesmerized and charmed by how different society was, observing through the eyes of a 12 year old. One of the first things that I noticed as I was driving through the narrow vico’s with my Zio and Zia was the various apartment buildings and balconies being engulfed in blue Napoli flags that matched the beautiful sunny Italian sky. I always knew who the great Diego Maradona was but this moment in time made me discover my roots and the team that I would religiously follow for the next ten years of my life… Being a curious kid, I wondered what the hell were all these blue flags dangling off my fellow paisans balconies meant as it was something I had never seen before in North America. My Zio then explained to me that it was because Napoli had been promoted back into Serie A. The city was going crazy, decorating and filling the streets with joy especially after almost losing the club through bankruptcy back in 2004, before Aurelio De Laurentiis saved them.
I really got a true taste of what it meant to be a scugnizzi , as I played calcio with the famous orange Super Santos ball (that I later took home with their signatures on it) on the streets with my Guagliù’s who later acknowledged me as their big Canadian friend. My first ever Napoli jersey that I owned was a blue Paolo Cannavaro jersey that my Zia had bought me as gift before I left. That year since I returned back home I followed the Partenopei as closely as I could. There was barely no streaming websites like there are today but I heavily relied on refreshing the Goal.com page every minute during the Napoli games just to find out the score. It was always frustrating not being able to watch my team during the 2007-08 season but would jump up in excitement cheering when the live match commentary read GOAL NAPOLI!!!! I have been a proud Napoli fan ever since.
I have too many favorite Napoli moments which will be a topic for another day. However, one that sticks out to me was back in 2012 when Napoli beat Juventus 2-0 in the Coppa Italia final. I watched it on TV with my brothers (who are also huge Napoli fans), and we were all wearing our jerseys. This was special as it marked Napoli’s first trophy since the Maradona era. Some people say memories fade but I still remember my first trip to sunny Naples and each match like it was yesterday.
Napoli è sempre nel mio cuore.
By Mark Manganiello Follow @ManganielloMark