For the past few weeks, we’ve been bringing to you the story of Napoli’s historic third Scudetto, their first in 33 long years, as told by Liam Miller, Editor of The Culture Division.
In his journey throughout Naples, Liam narrated the truly beguiling experience of what it was like to witness such a historic triumph. As the curtain gets ready to rise on another Serie A season, we caught up with The Culture Division, Editor to look back on his memories of Naples, ahead of Napoli’s defence of their title.
You experienced a lot in Naples, since the dust has settled, is there one abiding memory from everything that happened that you think will stay with you forever?
Miller: I think the sense of pride that the people were expressing in their city was the most overwhelming memory – it felt contagious. I’ll never forget the night of the Scudetto win, of course. But the collective spirit of joy is something that will stick with me.
Was the experience more than you expected? I know sometimes with these things, it could maybe have been an anti-climax, but it really did look like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Miller: I think there are people that go to Naples and claim to have truly understood it as a place. But as I’ve written before, that’s missing the point. To try and understand it is to misunderstand it completely. It’s better to let go completely and become swept away by the little moments of interaction and chaos. They are the most impactful elements of the city.
What were your thoughts on Naples as a city?
Miller: It’s a beautiful city. The architecture is incredible, and there is history of some sort on every street, every corner, in every church. People often confuse its breathlessness for disorder: but it functions just as uniquely as any other city in the world. I’ve never felt more intoxicated by a place in my life than Naples.
Ischia is also a stunning place. The droves of tourists that skip straight past Naples to visit the Amalfi coast often overlook the island, which to me made it more attractive.
The Talented Mr Ripley was one of my main inspirations for visiting. I actually took Patricia Highsmith’s book with me on the journey. Reading it on the beach, next to the castle that sits in the backdrop of many of the film’s scenes, was a real moment of catharsis.
Where does this experience in Naples compare with anything else you’ve come across in football?
Miller: I watched Flamengo’s opening game of the 2019 season at the Maracanã in Rio, which was truly special. It was my first experience of Latin American football and they actually went on to win the league and the Copa Libertadores that year, too.
I was also at Wembley for England’s semi-final win over Denmark in Euro 2020. Those are two amazing in-stadium experiences, for different reasons. But neither compares to my experience in Naples. It just chimed with everything I hold dearly about what football should be: community, people, spirit.
Why do you think for so many people there is a cultural obsession with Napoli? It seemed like the whole world was urging them on to finally do it
Miller: In football terms, I think it’s a simple answer. They played the most electric football in Europe for most of last season, with likeable players and a charismatic coach searching for something that evaded him. That’s easy to cheer for.
I think beyond that, the spectre of Maradona still has a lot to do with it. His memory gives people a reference point in the city and emphasised the time that had passed between triumphs. I think many people can identify also with an often downtrodden city and people that still have the hunger and desire to fight back.
For me, I’ve become a bit disenchanted at times with modern football. How do you feel about it? When you witness the scenes like that, does it remind you of the beauty of football and why we love it so much?
Miller: Exactly. Napoli’s campaign was one of those rare moments of romance in football – something of which we’ve long been starved. In just about every facet of the game, football is regressing; death-spiralling into a money pit of doom and despair.
It is painful and maddening to watch, season after season. But every now and then, a moment like this will come along, and remind you why you invest so much time and energy into it.
What is on the horizon this season for The Culture Division
Miller: For The Culture Division, we’ve just finished up with The Naples Edition, our digital exhibition dedicated to showcasing the literary, artistic and photographic talent of the city of Naples. We have a series of interesting interviews lined up for late summer, and then we’ll be diving into our next Editions project, focused on a different city. But that’s a secret.
The Culture Division is a creative and editorial platform, spotlighting the game’s cultural, artistic, historical and political heritage. They are inspired by the untold stories, those that expose the hard-hitting realities of modern football, and those that champion the core values of creativity and community. Luke Taylor is the founder of The Culture Division and Liam Miller is Editor.
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