Napoli continue their quest for the Scudetto this Saturday, on the lawn of Salernitana. This short trip is accompanied by a certain rivalry between ultras, despite the ban on Neapolitan supporters. But in Naples as in Salerno, we speak more of fraternity between peoples of the South than of animosity.
The dial does not yet show noon, but there are already several thousand. Gathered under a mild winter sun at its zenith, nestled between the Mediterranean and the hills, they sing their first songs. They are the tifosi of the Salernitana, grouped in the impressive Curva Sud of the Arigis stadium. Opposite, the few dozen faithful of Torino seem very small. Up at dawn, they are preparing to attend this Sunday, January 9, the draw of theirs (1-1) at the incongruous schedule of 12:30 p.m. Two weeks later, the Curva Sud will face a visitors’ stand as straight as it is empty to receive Napoli, their imposing neighbor, on Saturday at 6 p.m. This closure of settore ospiti does it stem from the fierce rivalry between Naples and its neighbor Salerno, 60 kilometers further south? Not really. Or at least not directly. The fans of the Serie A leader are indeed, like their Roman acolytes, deprived of travel for two months, after violent clashes having opposed them on a motorway rest area in Abruzzo a fortnight ago. Neapolitans and Salernitans will thus not face each other directly on Saturday, not writing a new page of their antagonism in the stands.
“The rivalry is quite quiet, you can be Napoli tifoso without problem. And then, we don’t run behind the same sporting goals…” Andrea, tobacconist in Salerno
Two weeks earlier, at the end of the match against Toro, not much suggested that a derby was looming on the forecourt of Arigis. “You know, it’s quite special hereexplains Andrea, tobacconist in the center of Salerno. The rivalry is quite calm, you can be tifoso of Napoli without problem. And then, we don’t run behind the same sporting goals…” Recognized for the fervor of their stands, the Granata actually box in another category than the Azzurrithe maintenance for some and the title for others.
The sound of discord
In August, veteran Antonio Candreva and his mates were on the Serie A starting grid for the 4e only once in club history. The current fifteenth in the championship come out of a memorable rout in Bergamo last Sunday (8-2), but are not far from living the best season of their short history in the elite. Thus, their exploits are experienced in parallel with those of Naples. “When Napoli are champions with Maradona, there is real joy in Salernorecalls Sébastien Louis, historian specializing in Italian football and author of the book Ultras – the other football protagonists. One of the leaders of the CUCB (ultra Napoli group) even sometimes went to the Arigis. » The Campanian rivalry actually began quite late, in June 1994. While Italy had their eyes fixed on the American World Cup, the San Paolo was set ablaze … for a Serie C play-off. The Salernitana challenged Juve Stabia there , club based between Naples and Salerno. The winner of this play-off will advance to Serie B. “Napoli’s CUCB left its sound system to the ultras of Juve Stabia, when they were on rather good terms with Salernitanadecrypts Sébastien Louis. It was not well received. »
On the meadow, the Granata reach Serie B, then stabilize there when Napoli, in decline, are relegated. After a few episodic clashes at the end of the 1950s, the two formations met regularly at the turn of the 21st century.e century. Their rivalry thus takes on relief. By scenographies or interposed banners, the ultras of the two camps are having a great time. “I remember one who said “Salerno is reality, Naples is comedy”in 1999points out the historian. Then another, where we read “We are not Neapolitans”. » The whole thing makes the thousands of Partenopei present. Who reply, during the return match: “Derbies? For us, it’s an English team.” 1. A way, in a way, to “snub” the Salernitana, for Sébastien Louis. “And even for Salerno, it’s not the region’s No. 1 derbyhe continues. The rivalry has long been strong with Avellino. »
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Even built on the job and cut by the rise of Napoli in the elite in 2003, the rivalry does not fade. Better, it starts again with a vengeance last year, when the Salernitana reappears in Serie A. Particularly tenacious in the ultra environment, this one is not particularly obvious among the other supporters. In the streets of Salerno, some even laugh to see a sign in front of the place where the club was founded… tinged with Neapolitan azure. “I even have friends who support both clubs at the same time” swears Francesco, a pizza maker a few meters away. “After all, we are the same people! » , continues Vincenzo, 60 terminals further north on the port of Naples. A Facebook group, launched just a year ago, reflects this desire for rapprochement. “Our two cities have the same historyexplains its creator, the Neapolitan supporter Martino Di Matteo. I am a fan of our southern culture and I did not like the degrading chants during a derby last year. » His initiative, called Fratelli Napoletani e Salernitani, brings together nearly 11,000 members. “Be careful, we are not talking about twinning, I respect the culture of ultras” he warns.
The idea is gaining ground, without however reaping the unanimity of the fans nor, for the moment, the support of the two clubs in question. “Despite the closure of the parking lot, we will try to do things individually on Saturdaycontinues Martino Di Matteo. For example, some will try to go to the stadium with a Salernitana shirt, dressing their children in the colors of Napoli. » Despite the restrictions on them, there is little doubt that several hundred Neapolitan tifosi will be scattered all over Arigis, following an absurd but well-known pattern in France. Martino Di Matteo also invokes, in the background, broader ambitions. “We would like to unite Campania or even, why not, the whole of the Southhe explains. After all, whether it’s us, Lecce, Reggina or the others, we’re all insulted by “terroni”2 in the north. We are all at the same point…” The possible climbs of Reggina or Bari, 2e and 4e of Serie B, could accelerate his dream. As for the present, his group has seen many congratulatory messages bloom in Napoli after his recital against Juve (5-1). “I remember Salernitana ultras celebrating a Neapolitan elimination against Chelsea in 2012concludes Sébastien Louis. If Napoli are champions, what will be their reaction? » Thirty-three years after Maradona, the question has never been so topical.
By Elio Bono, in Naples and Salerno
All comments collected by EB.
1 – The Neapolitans say this in reference to Derby County. It is a way of saying that, for them, this “derby” did not exist, they did not attach importance to it and “snubbed” the Salernitana (and therefore that the only thing they envisage behind the term “Derby” is the English club).
2 – “Terroni” is a pejorative term used by some northern Italians to belittle southerners. It could be translated as “ass-earthy”. In football, the expression appears in 1986 on a banner during a Hellas-Napoli, but is now very common when moving a southern team to the North, sometimes leading to sanctions for “territorial discrimination”.