Monday, 3 March 2014

Match 11: Napoli


“Napoli isn’t only a football team. It’s a part of me, my family and my culture. It’s a way for me to communicate with my dad and to make me feel connected to my roots and my city, which can be both terrible and fantastic at the same time. I’m Neapolitan because I support Napoli. I’m proud because, despite not having won much in our history, for ninety years we’ve always been an important club, capable of stirring up emotions and giving drama to everyone, not only to our fans. Napoli isn’t a team like any other, because Naples isn’t a city like any other.”


“When Napoli play the city stops. It’s like the night before New Year’s Eve - the calm before the storm. It’s a countdown. You check your watch as the minutes pass and you wait for the rumble of a goal.”


“Something that I always tell my partner is that in my priorities, Napoli is first, my mum is second, and that third place is open for her to fight for!”Naples is at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the dormant volcano which famously destroyed the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It last erupted in 1944, and these days 600,000 people live in the city’s red zone (i.e. the area most at risk in case of eruption). Presumably living in the shadow of what is basically a massively ticking time bomb must have an effect on the population’s psychology: 


“Sure, living in the shadow of Vesuvius isn’t easy and you know you can’t relax, but it’s a part of us, of being Neapolitan. From one moment to the next our lives could end just like that, but if you stop and think about all those negative things then you won’t live…. So our reaction is to take one day at a time, thinking about all of the good in our lives. Then, when we admire Vesuvius looking down on us from up there, we just see a beautiful landscape or a postcard to send to the rest of the world. And we think our city’s the most beautiful in the world thanks to it!”


“I don’t think it does [affect our daily mentality]. In my opinion, we think of it just like we do the sea - it’s an element of the landscape that characterises our city and makes us famous. Of course, if you think about it rationally then you know it could be lethal, but during the day you don’t stop to think of it that way. You think of its enormity and power, but it’s always there and doesn’t change your day. Or maybe it’s so subconscious that we don’t notice anymore.

“I think the way we Neapolitans enjoy our lives comes more from our history and from the countless foreign powers that have taken turns to rule the city. Every one who has held power here has left us something, whether it’s in our language, cuisine or way of being. These rulers eventually moved on, but the city was always there, and poverty and hunger forced us to get by every day. Stressing out about [Vesuvius] is a waste of time because everything else is temporary but Naples is permanent.”
Over the centuries, Naples has been under the control of Greeks, Romans, Spanish and French, to name but a few. Two of Italy’s stereotypes hail from Naples, as both pizzas and mandolins originate from that part of the country. Meanwhile, for any history trivia buffs out there, the first railway line in Italy was built in Napoli, despite the Catholic church’s fear “that dark tunnels could pose a threat to morality”

Regarding what Annachiara said about those foreign powers’ influences on the city, the language really stuck out for me. Dialects are quite common in Italy, and I can usually understand a wee bit of them just by listening out for any Italian words that sneak into them. Case in point: when I went to see Hellas Verona, while standing outside the pub, Davide, my interviewee there, asked his friend: “che ora qualcosa qualcosa?” (“what time blah blah?”) Checking my watch, I told him, at which he asked me incredulously if I spoke Veronese. No, of course I don’t, but if you start a question with ‘what time’, it’s likely to end with ‘is it?’. But Neapolitan is no longer technically a dialect - UNESCO now recognises it as a bona fide language. Their accent is quite unlike that which I hear on a day-to-day basis up in Genoa, and I’m afraid that if you wanted a taste of Neapolitan, I could only reply: “nu sacc caggia di pe fa n’esempio” (“I don’t know what example to give”).

Neapolitan was so common in the past that it was used in court papers, while in 1799, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, a poet and journalist who was destined for the gallows, called for it to be used in speeches: “to spread civic instruction to that section of the population which has no other language”. Through a combination of the strong accents and the use of Neapolitan, everyone around me might as well have been talking in Japanese for all I could understand. A most unusual sensation.

No comments:

Post a Comment