Sports

What the Serie A race means

Whoever said Italian football is boring? AS Roma, bouncing back to eliminate Barcelona in Europe and now look around you in Europe. What do you see? The title race is settled in England where Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have completely dominated, France and Germany are settled and Barcelona have La Liga in the bag.

Italy is different though and that is thanks to Napoli who have clawed back Juventus’ lead and left them with just a one point advantage with four games left.

These are special times for Napoli fans. Once upon a time Diego Maradona used to be Napoli’s messiah and the only one who was really able to turn a normal team into a football “war machine”. He inspired Napoli to the Scudetto in 1989-90, and since then the magic power this team used to have disappeared. Their potion has been stumbling from struggles to recently one close shave after the other.

Now Napoli fans are dreaming again that they are on the path to the winners stage, that it never died especially especially when Kalidou Koulibaly rose highest in the box, towering above everyone to head home Jose Callejon’s 90th-minute corner against Juventus on Sunday. That was the moment every single Neapolitan had always been craving. That was the exact moment tears of joy reunited one city. That was the eternal moment nobody will ever forget, whether this would be the “mission impossible” year or not, whether it means a first Serie A title since Maradona or not.

When Koulibaly scored, he was mobbed by his team-mates, but actually that huge hug was coming from the whole city of Napoli itself: this image will forever be printed in all fans eyes in all the years to come.

It didn’t just take Napoli to within one point of Juventus, it shattered the myth that is Juventus. It was only a third home league defeat for Juventus in the past five years. Given that they are unbeaten domestically since November, the pleasure for the Partenopei to break into their bunker has even been bigger.

Napoli hasn’t won any trophies yet, and still sit second, but they have been partying like they have won the title already. Fans went absolutely mental and wild after famous win over Juventus: they took to the streets to let off fireworks, lined the streets and swam in fountains long all night long, while club legend Diego Maradona posed for a photo with a Napoli shirt and posted it on social media.

Imagine if they were to actually win it. Those are the same fans that for the next weeks will be hoping Juve drop points in their remaining games, taking advantage of the Juventus psychological difficulties after the dramatic Koulibaly header sealed victory and left Gianluigi Buffon helpless.

The team even had a headache scheduling their flight back from Turin as their charter plane was originally denied take-off because of fans at the airport. Putting all this in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson: “Football, bloody hell.”

“Winning here was practically inconceivable, we can be happy because we have played against a great team which hasn’t lost at home for so long,” Koulibaly said. Juve are a very strong side, but we proved Napoli can fight it out with them. The team has always believed in the Scudetto as much as we have believed in in ourselves, in our style of football, in our players and our staff. We proved that tonight”.

“Tonight is a feeling that only those who have been with us since yesterday can fully understand,” Sarri said insisted. “It’s an enormous satisfaction. We are the only team which represents an entire population, because we are the only one which comes from a big city that only has one team. We gave our fans a huge joy today that goes above and beyond the standings”.

But who is the main driver of this miracle? “Sarrismo” is the answer. The ex-banker is revolutionizing Italian football and has kept Napoli’s Scudetto dreams alive thanks to his ideas and his mark on these exceptional performances. Starting from the involvement of the full-backs and finishing with the relentless pressing, his team has undoubtedly put quality to their play and a victory for Napoli would be now a massive achievement for Sarri, and for “Sarrismo” itself.

It is thanks to him that Napoli are right back in the title mix. The pressure is all on the six-time consecutive league winners, who have yet to visit Inter Milan and Roma in away games. For this reason, Napoli will hope to capitalise on any slip-up by their modern rivals when they tackle the likes of Torino, Sampdoria and Crotone across their remaining fixtures. 

Napoli can see the promised land. Whether they can arrive there is another question all together. Will Sarri, the Che Guevara of this Italian soccer revolution, storm the palace and seize power? Who knows, but in the meanwhile the new official Napoli motto is “In Sarri We Trust”. Time to get the ball rolling.

By Michele Calamaio|3news.com|Ghana

The writer is an intern at TV3 and a life-long Napoli fan.

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