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Our Beloved Shirt, How Beautiful You Are! Blue Like The Sea.

“Azzurra come il mare is a true declaration of love for the blue jersey.”

I started working on this project in the last few months of 2023, “Azzurra come il mare.” To be honest though it goes back even further than that, and has much deeper roots.

It was 2014, and I took a trip to one of the local flea markets. It was there that I saw the Napoli jersey from 2002/2001. It had the Peroni sponsor across it, and it was love at first sight. With money from my first ever salary, I bought it. I had to. I’ll never forget that jersey. Blue as the sea.

From that moment, a journey began that still accompanies me today, where I search for unique pieces among physical and online markets across the world. It has been a path that has allowed me to meet many people over the years, who like me live every day hoping to enrich their collection.

For all of those reasons, I decided to start travelling around the city, in the popular neighbourhoods, asking all kinds of Napoli fans to wear one of my shirts and between one shot and another, tell me their story.

Some of the jerseys photographed for my project include’ the Nike Polenghi 1997/1998, Kappa Napoli Soccer 2004/2005, Linea Time Cirio 1984/1985, NR Buitoni 1987/1988, EA7 2022/2023 and 2023/2024, Umbro Voiello 1992/1993 and Lotto Centrale del Latte 1996/1997. It was special to be able to shoot them all, travelling to different locations across the city like; Quartieri Spagnoli, San Giovanni a Teuccio, Sanità, Lungomare, Forcella and Fuorigrotta, and meeting so many amazing people.

The project was born because I felt the need to show the world the magic behind some of the most iconic jerseys in the history of Napoli football. But it wasn’t enough for me, the need was to give voice to the story of the popular neighborhoods, people who live for football.

‘Azzurra come il mare’ is a true declaration of love for the blue jersey. “Our beloved shirt, how beautiful you are! Blue like the sea…” and when this chorus starts on Sunday, in Curva B, the project seems to come to life in the stadium too. Each photo demonstrates how the shirts are a real item of streetwear clothing, something original and unique, capable of attracting the attention of everyone.

My favourite Napoli jerseys are the ones from Umbro. I love this brand. The jerseys created during the years from 1991 to 1995 are true fashion icons. There is one shirt above all that for me is the most iconic and, even if many will not agree with me, it is a non-blue shirt. It is a shirt worn by Napoli Calcio only once in its history, on 20 March 1994, during an away match against Lazio. The shirt is inspired by the Aston Villa model: it is amaranth and blue in colour and the collar has the particularity of having been made like that of rugby uniforms.

There is also a legend about this shirt: it seems that none of the Napoli players present in that match wore a shirt that was made the same as the others. For example, Ciro Ferrara’s shirt featured the Napoli logo inside the number on the back of the shirt, other jerseys did not; some shirts had the Umbro logo sewn on them, and others had the printed logo.

However, the one shirt that will always have that unique importance for me above all, will forever be the 2022/2023 season: an immense joy that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was a victory that every Napoli fan had been waiting for, for a long time, a season that will never be forgotten. It was the first football shirt produced by Armani and I loved the texture of the shirt with the small Napoli logos.

The Napoli shirt, for a Napoli fan, is like a second skin. In Naples, we say that God made the sky blue because he is a Napoli fan. This helps you understand what these colours and this shirt mean to us. For this reason, when the players are on the pitch, every Napoli fan has to support the team until they lose their voice so everyone who wears the Napoli shirt must understand the responsibility and importance of this.

In general, all Napoli shirts have the importance of representing the history of Napoli football. Then, obviously, there are some that are more iconic than others: we all agree that the jersey of Maradona and Napoli’s first scudetto, 1987/1988, with Buitoni as sponsor, will forever remain among the most representative in history.

During this journey of collecting and photography, I met many beautiful people with fantastic stories. People are ready to do anything to continue pursuing their passion. One in particular will be the protagonist of one of my next posts on Instagram, but I can’t reveal anything for now. You can’t imagine how many sacrifices, financial or otherwise, are behind every collector. A life spent searching for the rarest shirt, which will never be the rarest one because, every time he buys the desired one, there will always be a new one.

The neighbourhoods of Naples are full of these stories and many others related to football. The people here live for football, they breathe football and their week starts well or badly depending on the football result of Napoli on Sunday. 

You can follow Gaetano Bastone’s “Azzurra come il mare” project here.

All images are taken by Gaetano Bastone.

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