Rome (Italy), May 5 (IANS) After days of waiting, Naples burst into celebration after the city’s football club clinched their first Serie A title in more than three decades. The finish on Thursday night was anticlimactic, with SSC Napoli securing their first championship since 1990 with a 1-1 draw against a middle-of-the-pack Udinese squad.
With the title, the southern Italian city of Naples, which stands in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius volcano, erupted into celebration. There were no immediate reports of violence or injuries during the celebrations.
On Thursday night, a second-half goal by Victor Osimhen secured Napoli the title with five games remaining in the season.
Sandi Lovric had dampened the spirits of visiting fans when he scored a goal after 13 minutes, with a well-placed shot that found the top-right corner of the box. However, in the 53rd minute, Osimhen sparked jubilant celebrations among the Napoli fans when he fired in the equaliser from a rebound.
Napoli have been one of the strongest in Serie A all season, finishing their first 15 games with 13 wins and two draws and building a commanding lead over their main rivals. The squad ended the 33rd week of the season with 80 and a 16-point lead over Lazio and 17 points over multiple-time former champion Juventus, reports Xinhua.
The team, among the leaders of the 20-club Serie A for years, finished second in the 2018-19 season, fell to seventh the following year but then improved in each subsequent season — fifth in 2020-21, then third last season.
But the years since the team’s last championship in 1990 have also seen struggles — Napoli spent most of the late 1990s and early 2000s playing in Serie B, Italy’s second division, and for two seasons — 2004-05 and 2005-06 — they even played in the third division, Serie C.
The city began planning for a widespread celebration a week ago when it became mathematically possible for its favourite sons to clinch the championship. But those hopes were dashed on Sunday when Napoli drew with struggling Salernitana 1-1 on the road. Then, on Wednesday, the team missed another chance when second-place Lazio beat mid-table Sassuolo 2-0, keeping their ultra-slim title hopes alive.
As on Sunday and Wednesday, the historic centre of Naples was sealed off from traffic on Thursday evening in anticipation of the celebrations, and the game against Udinese was screened on giant screens set up in the Diego Maradona Stadium, named after the former Naples great who died in 2020.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock on Thursday, a cheer spread through the stadium followed by fireworks and celebrations in the city’s streets. Fans paraded through the city’s main thoroughfares carrying giant blue-and-white team flags and shouting slogans. Others hung out of cars honking horns and playing music loudly.
The title is the first for Naples since the 1989-90 team led by the Argentine superstar Maradona, one of the world’s all-time great players. The latest championship was the third ever for Napoli, joining the 1986-87 squad and the one from 1989-90. The team was founded in 1926.
Earlier this week, Naples’ Prefect Claudio Palomba, Mayor Gaetano Manfredi, and SSC Napoli Chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis held a special security meeting to ensure the highly-anticipated celebrations.