Sunday, June 7, 2009

Soccer in Naples

(Pictures:  Naples vs. AC Milan players on the field, David Beckham, San Paolo Stadium in Naples, fans in the stadium, and rowdy fans in the "Curva" section lighting fires.)

Nook of Naples:  It's impossible to talk about life in Naples without mentioning soccer.  And there is nothing like the experience of a Neapolitan soccer game.  The fans are rowdy, the Stadium San Paolo is old, and you can frequently see flairs and fires dot the stadium during a big game.  Soccer is a huge sport here and it seems that all young males devote their afternoons and weekends to honing their skills on the field.

For those of you who don't know much about soccer, here's a small summary.  The season runs from August through May.  The Naples team plays forty regular season games per year -- twenty at home and twenty away, playing each Serie A team twice.  The Naples team is excellent, so they are in Serie A or the Italian Premier League.  This league is considered one of the three best in the world alongside the English Premier League and the Spanish Primera Liga.

Throughout Italy, almost every town has its own team, so there are also Serie B, C, and D.  Each year, the top teams in each division move up to the next division the following year.  The bottom four teams of a Serie move down a division.  This makes the competition within each Serie fierce. 

The top teams in Italy tend to come from Milan -- AC Milan, Juventus, and Internationale.  They are the ones who usually win the Serie A.  Naples usually finishes somewhere in the middle of the Serie.  The Italian teams -- just like other teams in Europe -- buy their players from all over the world.  AC Milan, for example, has David Beckham from England and Ronaldinho from Brazil.  

The sport can get complicated because not only do Italians play teams within their country, but European tournaments also run throughout the year.  The most famous tournament is the Champions League, which pits the top teams in Europe against each other in a year long competition with a finale in May.  These best-of-the-best teams recruit players from all over the world, including Brazil and Argentina.

The top Neapolitan player today is Ezequiel Lavezzi from Argentina.  He is the most renown Argentinian to play in Naples since Diego Maradona.

Getting There:  Take the Tangenziale to the Fuorigrotto exit.  Once you get off, you'll see the stadium to the East.

Website Recommendation:  The Naples soccer team is known as Societa Sportiva Calcio Napoli or SSC Napoli.  Their English language website is fabulous. 

La Cucina Napoletana:  Vendors can't be found inside the stadium, so Italian 'fast-food' gluts the streets outside.  'Fast Food' for Italians includes pizza with beer, fried bread with ricotta and ham inside, and panini (sandwiches).  Two of my favorites panini are:

Panini with Eggplant and Mozzarella:
Take a small baquette and slice in the middle.
Fry eggplant in a pan with healthy heaps of olive oil.  
Slice mozzarella cheese.
Place the eggplant and mozzarella inside the panini and eat.
(Usually, no condiments are used.)

The other sandwich I see sold by vendors has no name that I know of.  It's a bread bun sliced in the middle, then stuffed with french fries and one small hot dog.  (You eat it with no condiments.)

Buon Divertimento!

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