Cristian Speranza – “My Love for Napoli”

Football, to many of its fans, is truly an art. The English Oxford Dictionary defines ‘art’ as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,’ and football undeniably fits that description. Is there truly any emotional difference between that final piano stroke on the Beatles’ masterpiece ‘A Day in the Life’ and that final sweep of the ball past England’s Peter Shilton as Maradona scored the ‘goal of the century’, Hugo Morales’ exclamations of pure ecstasy providing much more music to my ears than any songs I’ve heard on the radio in recent memory.

When I spoke to the Sempre! Team about writing this writer’s profile, I wasn’t really sure what to write, or even how to write it. Then I wondered, what would I write about anything else I truly loved, ‘The Beatles’ for example. I’d talk about how I came to love a group of lads on the other side of the globe and almost half a century before my time and just what their influence was on my life. So, without further ado, here is my profile; l’arte dello Calcio.

My father, a Mr Gennaro Speranza, was born in Napoli during the summer of 1969, and soon found a home, an identity, in the narrow, winding streets and beautiful, expansive coastline, a stark contrast of open beauty and a concealed, intricate world beneath it which has personified the city and its people, for good and for bad.

He would be on the cusp of turning 15 when El Diego first stepped foot in the Stadio San Paolo, juggling the ball a few times before an almighty crowd of 70 thousand roaring fans, a ferocious adoration not seen since the Beatles had landed in airports across the globe during the height of ‘Beatlemania’ two decades prior.

I am honestly rather jealous of this fact, growing up watching perhaps the greatest player to have ever lived, winning the only major trophies I have ever been proud of. Tales of woe he caused defenders are still passed down to me, not to mention the exploits of the insane MA-GI-CA trio that dominated the Serie A at the time.

However, he was a man of ambition with a passion for the kitchen, and so, in 1996, he embarked on a journey to bring the beauty of true Neapolitan culinary excitement to Sydney, Australia, and two decades later was able to open up his own café, Bottega Darlinghurst, in the heart of this wonderful city he had only ever seen in pictures. The rest of his enormous family remained in Napoli, an inextricable link to the city, and the team, that formed my undying devotion, my cousins passing on stories of hurrying out of school to catch to train to the San Paolo to catch their matches in the Serie C.

Whenever I describe the greatest moments in my life, there are quite a few to name. Graduating from high school (only a few weeks ago now), magical dates with my girlfriend, my 18th birthday…the list goes on. However there are two that stand very clearly in my mind; my one and only match at the Stadio San Paolo, as Napoli beat Torino 2-1, screaming out Insigne’s name as he scored an absolute peach of a volley from just outside the box, and that first goal against Real Madrid in last season’s Champions league, crying and screaming (and eventually losing my voice for the rest of the day).

I think this is the influence it has truly had on my life, this great ardor for a team I’ve only ever seen twice in my life, their signatures hanging in my room as proudly as any other accolades I may have earned in my lifetime, each name, each goal, embedded so distinctly in my mind.

This passion consumes every facet of my being, and spills over really, into every little thing I do. Robyn Hitchcock once said that “Whenever I hear the Beatles, I always feel I’ve got a lot in common with everybody else,” and this is what draws me to football so dearly, being part of something bigger than myself, screaming just as loudly as the thousands that pack the stadiums and millions that crowd around their televisions.

This is the art of football, the fact that it can turn strangers into friends so quickly, people you’ve never known, and may never even meet, all connected as they recite each and every word to Un Giorno all’improviso without fail.

By Cristian Speranza 

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