In 1987, Napoli rose to the top of Italian soccer after acquiring soccer legend Diego Maradona in 1984 and was positioned to win their first championship, the Scudetto, which no other southern Italian soccer team had ever won.
So, when my dad asked me to go with him to watch Napoli win the Scudetto in Naples, I was excited, because I knew he waited his whole life for this moment. When he said the game was in May, I realized it was during my finals week at Cal Poly Pomona, and I couldn’t go. I still remember how emotional he was when he called us from Naples to tell us Napoli had won the Scudetto. “Can you hear the people celebrating in the street? I am on the 5th floor of the hotel.” It was amazing to hear the celebration over the phone, but I could only imagine how the experience was for him being there. Napoli went on to win their second Scudetto in 1990.
Since my father passed away in 2020, Napoli has been knocking on the door to their third Scudetto, and this year seemed to be the year it might happen.
In Europe, the team with the most points at the end of the season is crowned champion. Napoli eventually built a 21-point lead atop the league, the highest in league history. By March, I began to calculate when Napoli might clinch the title by predicting wins, losses, and ties for upcoming games and landed on the week of April 30 to May 7. With two home games and one away game that week, nine points were available, three for each win.
My family knew the story of ’87, so it was no surprise when I told them I was going to Naples to see Napoli win the Scudetto. Only my son Vincent could join me, so I planned the trip — a day in Rome, weekends in Naples, and a few days in between in Ischia. My friend Giancarlo Lauro, who was at the game with my dad in ’87, joined us for the Florence game on the 7th.
When we arrived in Naples, every street was decorated in Napoli’s blue and white colors. Streamers, flags, and banners hung across balconies, and life-size images of players lined the streets. The Spanish Quarter, with its giant mural of Maradona, was packed full of admirers. I had seen the photos on social media, but seeing it in person was even more impressive.
We headed to the Salerno game by taxi with friend Enrico LoBue. As we neared the stadium, the streets were packed with thousands of fans waving banners, singing, and chanting as blue smoke and loud explosions filled the air. After maneuvering through the large crowds, we entered the stadium, located our seats, and took pictures, one with a banner of my dad in a Napoli Jersey holding a Forza Napoli scarf over his head. It didn’t take long for the stadium to fill with fans waving flags, singing songs, and chanting to support Napoli. Napoli needed a win to clinch the Scudetto, but the game ended in a tie. The Udinese game was our next opportunity; by then, only a tie would be needed to clinch the Scudetto.
Before leaving for Ischia, we returned to Naples a day early to watch the Udinese game in a nearby piazza. Around 1:30 a.m., we entered the lobby to change our reservation when Luciano Spalletti, the head coach of Napoli, walked in. We couldn’t believe it! Vincent immediately went up to him while looking at me, saying, “Dad, it’s Spalletti. Come over here.” Spalletti was impressed that we traveled all the way from Los Angeles to watch Napoli win the Scudetto and seemed disappointed that they didn’t deliver earlier against Salerno. I said, “It’s okay. It’s coming, just slowly.” What a moment.
After returning to Naples, we watched the game with a thousand other Napoli fans at Piazza Giulio Rodino. The atmosphere was incredible. Our nerves were rattled when Udinese scored in the 13th minute, and Napoli was down 1-0 at halftime. Napoli began to control the second half’s tempo and pressure the goalkeeper. I looked at Vincent and said, “The goal is coming. I can feel it.” Then in the 52nd minute, Napoli scored with a shot by top scorer Victor Osimhen. The place went crazy! Red flares, blue smoke, cheering, singing, crying, and hugging. It was complete chaos.
Thirty-eight minutes plus injury time left in the game. We could all feel it. Then — five, four, three, two, one… Napoli were champions of Italy! I couldn’t stop the tears coming from my eyes. I looked up to heaven at my dad as I hugged Vincent. It happened — I finally saw Napoli win the Scudetto! I am crying as I write this.
Naples went crazy. We all went crazy. What a moment, 33 years in the making. The streets were packed full of people. Over 100,000 people made their way to Piazza del Plebiscito to celebrate – thousands of flags, crowded streets, people standing atop statues cheering, and balconies full of people singing. The joy was contagious. We felt like we were in a dream. What a gift! The celebration went on all night.
I was in tears as I called home to share the experience with my family and my mom, just like my father did in 1987. My dad gave me the dream that is Napoli. We could feel his presence the whole trip. Seeing Napoli win their third Scudetto filled a void that I have been feeling since my dad passed away. Forza Napoli Sempre! spt