April 1:st, I set my foot on the volcanic soil of Napoli in the shadow of Mount Vesuvio. Our Italian guild members would probably take this as an April fool’s joke, why would anyone go willingly to this god forsaken joke of a city? However, this was far from a joke since I am a man on a mission. I had come here to witness this year’s undoubtedly sexiest football team SSC Napoli play live. The “Gli Azzurri”, against all odds, had marched from victory to victory losing only two games in Serie A until this point. Despite Napoli having already basically secured the Scudetto with currently 20 points gap to Lazio, the biggest challenger, the games were far from boring. The football fever had seriously infected the whole city. People of Napoli breathe and live off their boys in blue, the city’s pride. Unfortunately, success has evaded the city for decades. The last Scudetto was lifted by the great Diego Maradona in the 80’s. Back then the celebrations lasted for a whole month, and now that the end of the 35-year drought is imminent, the whole city is prepared to literally party like it’s the 80’s again. The narrow streets are coated with blue and white flags and ornaments. Almost every window has a flag or a shirt hanging from it. Pictures of the old and new heroes colorize the walls and streets. And the stadium, renamed “Estadio Diego Armando Maradona” after the literal god of the city passed away in 2020, is sold out in every game, and the atmosphere is apparently something you must feel yourself to describe it. The success of the team was definitely not compromised by the lack of support. On the next day there would be a very big game against AC Milan, the current third team in the league, and I couldn’t wait to see what the hype was about.
Unfortunately, my mission took a little hit before the trip even started. We have to go back a couple of weeks to uncover the reasons behind these setbacks. You see, this season when the hype has kicked off in Napoli, the availability of the tickets has become rather limited. You must buy a Napoli membership to even try and get the tickets. I was still confident that I could get them, since I was well prepared, and we had been able to get tickets rather easily to a very big game last season when visiting Naples with couple of my friends. I bought the membership card and continued to reserve all the flights and accommodations. You see, in Italy the football tickets come on sale very late, usually only 1 to 2 weeks before the game. At this point I must say, mostly to find excuses for myself to the disappointment I had to go through, the game was not the sole purpose of my trip. I had also come to Italy to visit my friend Elina who was here on exchange, but I have to admit that the southern detour was planned mostly because of the game. Anyway, you might guess where this is going. I missed the ticket day, and they sold out. At this point I was a bit desperate. Even though my Italian friends advised me to not buy the tickets from third party vendors as they were almost always overpriced scams, I was very tempted to do so in order to have even the slightest chance to get to see the game. Then I came to a realization. This was just a minor setback in my journey. I was still going to the city and could be part of the hype nevertheless, just not in the stadium. Did I just take a big, fat L? Yes, but were I still going to make the most of my time in Napoli? Also yes.
Now the question was, what is the second-best place to watch a football match? My initial reaction was to consider, what would I do in Finland? There is only one logical answer to this. The place in question is located in Töölö, serves beers in 1-liter mugs and is famous for its French delicacies… That’s right, I only had to find the local Mr. Don in Napoli to find likeminded people, good atmosphere and of course the legendary “ämpäri”, or “secchio” in Italian. Borrowing the slogan of Napolis greatest rival Juventus, my trip had a purpose again; la storia di un grande secchio.
Diego is watching over us
1,5 hours before the kick-off, we begin our journey. There is only one natural place to begin such a journey, under the watching eyes of the city’s undisputed god and savior: the mural of the great Diego. The mural is located in the Quartieri Spagnoli area, which is part of the old town of Napoli. The place is full of decorations and people with Napoli shirts. A promising start. Right under Diego, there is even a screen and maybe 10 seats reserved for an exclusive watch-party. There are also a few bars right next to the mural, but nothing that would suffice us.
We keep on going. In the next place we find, the whole team of SSC Napoli greets us. This very amusing looking tiny bar has reserved the whole street for the game and placed real-life-sized cardboard version of the whole squad there. The place is full, and the atmosphere is through the roof. A street vendor tries to sell us hotdogs and we kindly refuse. The place is otherwise very good but unfortunately, they don’t have free seats and the tiny bar that is basically just a window on the side of the building only serves drinks in plastic cups. Not a secchio in sight. We decide to trust Mr. Spalletti’s advice and leave to the direction where he’s pointing.
Second place we arrive seems very potential. There is a huge screen on the street, a lot of happy people and most importantly, they have beer in big mugs. We get conveniently two last seats you can still see the screen from, and I proceed to go look for a secchio. I order a beer, and the bartender tells me three size options which I don’t quite hear amongst the loud Napoli fans. I tell him to give me the biggest and cross my fingers. Unfortunately, it’s not quite a secchio but we still decide to stay here since the game is about to begin. We even get our own show as a man with a guitar comes to hype the crowd up with Napoli chants, so the atmosphere is over the top. We see Napoli concede two quick goals and the feeling is slowly dying a bit. Halftime arrives and Napoli is 2-0 down. We decide to eject and find somewhere else to see the rest of the game.
After a short stroll we don’t find any better locations and the game is about to continue. We head for the first place we were as the spirit there seemed to be good. I give up for my search for a secchio and we decide to honor the late “El Pibe de Oro” by ordering a “Maradona Spritz”, some kind of a spritz-cocktail that is colored azure blue. Elina orders the last hot dog the vendor has to offer, and we see Milan scoring two more goals. People bury their heads in disbelief as the Rossoneri take easy 3 points from the league leaders.
I can’t help but to feel little comfort that I didn’t get to witness this massacre live. The game was by far Napoli’s worst of the season, and I can imagine the atmosphere in the stadium was probably extremely depressed. But perhaps it was meant to be like that. A lesson I learned from this adventure was that even though everything doesn’t go to plan, it doesn’t stop you from having a good time. I realize that this journey was not about the secchio we didn’t find, but the memories we made during the hunt for it. If anyone is still reading this, I thank you and I wish your Wappu will go according to plan. And don’t worry if it doesn’t, you can still have a blast! :)
Yours truly, the other one of the 2 main suppliers of Kukka