The images of emotion were given on the outskirts of the stadium from before the Italian team’s match for the Europa League.
Although Vatican City is 230 kilometers to the northwest, Naples was, for almost seven years, the house of God. Or, at least, that is how its inhabitants understood it, that since the news of Diego Maradona’s death was known, they began endless ceremonies to fire the best footballer of all time, the one who was (and is) his since 1984. This Thursday, the tributes had their institutional space before the start of the match between Napoli and the HNK Rijeka Croatian for the fourth date of the group stage of the Europa League.
The San Paolo, that stadium that lived its most glorious days when Diego stepped on its lawn and led the sky-blue team to win two scudettos (in 1987 and 1990), an Italian Cup (1987), an Italian Super Cup (1990) and a Cup UEFA (1989), was the epicenter of excitement on the Italian night. The same stadium that is now renamed Diego Maradona.
All the footballers of the Italian team took to the field wearing shirts with the number 10 and the last name of the idol on the back, in addition to the black armband that their Croatian colleagues also wore.
After the anthem of the competition was heard, the 22 protagonists and the members of the refereeing body gathered around the central circle for a moving minute of silence that was repeated in all the matches of the competitions organized by UEFA (also happened in tournaments governed by Conmebol).
On the substitute bench, the Napoli coach, Gennaro Gattuso, a man who in his years as a footballer was an emblem of Milan, also wore the light blue jersey for the tribute, while an image of Diego was projected on the stadium screen. A couple of flags reminiscent of the hero flew from the stands.
While this was happening inside the coliseum, outside a crowd had gathered, despite restrictions in that area of Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic, to pay their tribute to Ten.
Songs, applause, shouts, flags hanging on the perimeter fence of the San Paolo, T-shirts, photos, floral offerings and candles multiplied to infinity. The pagan ritual had begun on Wednesday night, shortly after the dire news broke.
On Wednesday, the small tributes had been replicated in other parts of the city such as the streets of the historic center, the Spanish Quarter, the Posillipo hill and the Caracciolo promenade. In addition, the Naples authorities had announced that the San Paolo stadium will change its name to Diego Armando Maradona.
“We all feel the same here and we believe that honoring him by renaming the stadium with his name is the logical thing to do because he formed and is part of our history. He was the greatest of all time and he played in Napoli ”, explained the mayor Luigi de Magistris, who argued that the administrative procedure would take around 15 days.
“He gave us everything. It was victory and emancipation. He will never be forgotten because this is a city with a huge heart that never judged him as a man. He loved it and that’s it, ”added De Magistris.