Friday, 25 November 2011

Why Aren't English Football Fans As Visual As The Italians?

Naples: chaotic city, brilliant fans

The welcome that the Napoli fans gave to their team as they emerged from the tunnel at the Sao Paolo stadium on Tuesday was the most spectacular I've ever seen at a football match.

We were among the first of the 1,000 travelling City fans to arrive at the stadium about an hour before kick off. By then, nearly every Napoli fan was already in position.

By anthem time, at one end, the crowd parted to form an N-shape that was brilliantly illuminated by red flares. At the other, every fan waved a small, blue flag while a '74-style World Cup football banner was unfurled in the middle of the stand. Along one side of the ground, fireworks exploded into the sky.

The crowd noise was deafening. It almost drowned out the Champions League tune until the end when in unison, 59,000 voices blared out "campione". A wonderful, emotional outpouring you just don't see in England.

I put this shoddy iPhone video on YouTube on Wednesday. It's had nearly 5,000 views so far, the vast majority of them from Italy. The comments, too, are nearly all from Napoli fans. They just love their club.

City's support is undoubtedly the best in the world for its unswerving loyalty. But it's characterised by witty, self-deprecating anthems (We Never Win At Home and We Never Win Away), irony (We're Not Really Here) and a torch song of lovelorn loneliness (Blue Moon). Inflatable bananas aside, until the newly-stolen Poznan goal celebration, it was all sound and no vision.

Perhaps Anfield is the closest we get. However grudgingly, you have to admit that the Kop end full of red scarves belting out You'll Never Walk Alone is stirring stuff when seen from the away end.

But there isn't much else worth writing home about in my experience: United are noisy by volume but lack much humour; the popular end at Molineux give Wolves fantastic support; West Ham's bubblers are in tune but often groaning; Newcastle is a fabulous frenzy bordering on religious fervour; the Britannia Stadium is stirringly loud when Stoke get a throw-in; Spurs fans are probably too exhausted by the walk from the tube to give it much welly; and the Arsenal faithful sometimes struggle to turn the excellent Emirates into a cauldron.

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe we're too busy boozing to organise such elaborate pre-match pyrotechnics. 

But I bet Napoli don't lose too many at home.

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