Saturday, 29 October 2016

When Napoli ended Juve reign

When Napoli ended Juve reign

An unofficial geographical divide permeates every facet of Italian life from politics to calcio, with claims of Northern apathy toward Southern social problems giving rise to ugly discriminatory incidents within stadia on both sides.
That overriding notion appeared particularly prevalent in the 1980s. Downtrodden and ignored, the San Paolo faithful were desperate for a saviour to push their glamorous enemies into the shade – on the football field, at least.


Juve claimed four Scudetti during that decade, including the 1984 and 1986 editions inspired by French maestro Michel Platini. However, the 1986-87 campaign unfolded very differently.
Diego Maradona was revelling in his best form, having just delivered the World Cup for his country in Mexico. Meanwhile, an ageing Platini announced his intention to retire at term-end, but was still seen by many as the League's undisputed king.
To Neapolitans, though, there was one outstanding star lighting up Serie A and the Bianconeri feared him. Subsequent cynical tackling failed to prevent Maradona's persistent probing during a 3-1 November loss facilitated by the Azzurri's late three-goal salvo from Moreno Ferrario, Bruno Giordano and Giuseppe Volpecina that inflicted Juventus' first home League defeat since April 1985.
Fervent anticipation surrounded the March return, with only seven matches left to play in the race for supremacy. The clash was hyped as a title-decider and the Partenopei knew it represented their clearest chance to banish seasons of underachievement.
Alessandro Renica and Francesco Romano – via Maradona's cross – struck either side of Juve forward Aldo Serena's header to claim a sweet victory. Wild celebrations greeted the final whistle as the Southern giants inched closer to that feted Scudetto, something they'd waited 61 years to witness. Serie A's best-player baton seamlessly changed hands from Platini to his influential Argentine opponent as a regime crumbled in front of an ecstatic San Paolo crowd.
Street parties ensued when May's championship confirmation came as Napoli devotees realised their long-held dream, mainly thanks to the diminutive attacking midfielder raised on the dusty pitches of his ramshackle Villa Fiorito neighbourhood. He'd created a second home among people with whom he identified, whilst slaying the Northern dragon to boot – and they loved him for it.
Normal service resumed post-Diego, with the Turin giants rising again to dominate Italian football, while their Naples counterparts boast just one further Maradona-inspired Scudetto of 1990 to their name.
Tensions intensified when the Azzurri were forced to seek an alternative talisman after fellow Argentine Gonzalo Higuain's summer defection northwards. He enjoyed the greatest ever campaign with an all-time record 36-goal haul in 35 Serie A appearances. Napoli finished second to the Bianconeri last term, thus offering fleeting hope of an end to the 26-year title drought, yet sacrificed potential iconic status alongside exalted compatriot Maradona by bailing out for their bitterest rivals prematurely.
That controversial switch will make him public enemy number one inside the homes and bars across the Campania region on Saturday night, due to what amounts to treason in their eyes, and they will collectively pray for another hero to emerge who can help overcome Pipita's new employers and prompt a renaissance of the good old days.

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