The tribute was poignant. The Napoli players, who entered the field all wearing the same jersey, Maradona’s number 10, won the Europa League on Thursday in memory of the city’s idol in a stadium which, for supporters, already bears his name.
Neither goal of the hand nor free kick “maradonesque” on the lawn, but emotion and especially a victory against the modest Croats of Rijeka (2-0): the Neapolitans are at the head of their group in this Europa League raised in 1989 by Maradona, when it was still called the UEFA Cup.
It is therefore with his emblematic number that the Neapolitans paid tribute to the most brilliant player in the history of the club, whose face remained on the giant screen. A jersey that they kept for the minute of silence before resuming their usual numbers, so without 10, this number not being attributed to Naples for years.
The Rijeka players, perhaps impressed by this fervor, did not spoil the tribute. The Neapolitans, whose start to the week was agitated after the defeat in the league against AC Milan (1-3), did not have to force. Zielinski, after a pass of legs that would have appreciated Maradona in connoisseur, centered strongly in front of the goal a ball pushed into his own goal by the Croatian Anastasio (41st). Then Lozano sealed a quiet victory (75th), the first in the “Maradona stadium”.
“Stade Diego Armando Maradona”
Shortly before the match, captain Lorenzo Insigne and historic Napoli storekeeper Tommaso Starace had left the stadium to lay a wreath at the foot of the gates and meditate, according to a video broadcast by the club.
“He will never die because he is a legend, he did extraordinary things. Already yesterday, going to the hotel on the bus, we saw that the city no longer breathed the same air, ”said Gennaro Gattuso on Sky Sport.
If the supporters are still deprived of bleachers by the Covid-19 pandemic, they crowded in front of the San-Paolo stadium that the mayor has proposed to rename with the name of Maradona. Proposal supported Thursday by the president of Napoli, Aurelio de Laurentiis: “I believe it is right to baptize San Paolo with your name to still have you with us”.
On the stadium gates, without delay, a plaque was affixed by supporters: “Diego Armando Maradona Stadium”. And everywhere blue-white scarves, candles, portraits of the star and blue jerseys, forming a real wall of memory for the player whose seven seasons (1984-1991) have left an indelible mark on the inhabitants of the city of southern Italy, by its successes and its slippages.
A few moments before kick-off, the supporters were still several hundred in front of the stadium, which remained on all night from Wednesday to Thursday.