Naples and Turin. The two historic Italian cities are separated by roughly 500 miles, but to those who have been to both, they might as well be on different planets. The Renaissance and Baroque style architecture of Turin, a city famous for it’s royal palaces, museums, and art galleries, lies in sharp contrast to the gritty, ancient, and narrow streets of Naples. The drastic differences between the two cities from a cultural and economic standpoint are in many ways reflected on the football pitch.
Just as Turin is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities, Juventus are the most successful and wealthiest club in Italy having won the Italian championship 34 times (16 more than any other side). The Old Lady’s financial resources have allowed them to consistently attract the best and brightest from Italy and around the world with the likes of Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Gianluigi Buffon, and now Cristiano Ronaldo. Countless legends of football have worn the black and white shirt over the years and they have brought with them admiration of fans around the world.
Napoli, on the other hand, is very much a representation of their working class city. They have never had the financial resources of the clubs in the north but have consistently punched well above their weight and have a massive following in the entire Campania region as a greater representation of the people. No player better exemplifies this than Diego Maradona.
While players like Allesandro Del Piero and Buffon are revered in Turin, they don’t come anything close to the god-like status Maradona has in Naples. Part of his special connection to the city comes from the fact that he grew up in a shantytown in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and for this reason was always sympathetic to the plight of the lower class. Ahead of the 1990 semifinal between Argentina and Italy, Maradona even said that “Naples is not Italy” referring to the way much of the north looks down on the southern city.
The vast differences between the two clubs is still very much apparent with no better example of this than the two stadiums. The new Juventus Stadium (or Allianz Stadium for sponsorship reasons) is less than a decade old and is one of only three club owned stadiums in Italy. With its close to the action seating and various amenities, it is very much a model modern football stadium. The Stadio San Paolo on the other hand was built just after World War II and features all of the characteristics of a classic football stadium with track around the field and its Colosseum-like seating.
The San Paolo should be packed on Sunday and taking a look back at the history of the two cities and clubs helps explain the extra significance behind this unique rivalry.