After Napoli’s triumph against Manchester City this Tuesday I went on Twitter to celebrate. Sad I know but that’s what you have to do when your interests are far from the mainstream – and Italian football is not mainstream where I live. On Twitter two of the people I follow had a heated discussion on how to look at other Italians teams playing in Europe.
Both tweeters are huge fans of a big club, which isn’t featured in the year’s CL and weren’t last year either (just to make the cover-up even worse I can add that the said club plays in black and white, comes from Turin, starts with a J and ends on uventus), and disagreed on whether or not to support Napoli in the CL. In this post I’ll briefly give my view on the discussion.
Ten years ago I didn’t support all Italian teams in the European competitions. I didn’t even like Gli Azzurri that much. Times have changed however and I have changed with it. Apart from my deeper and deeper love for all Italian football and not just Napoli, the status of Italian football has also changed.
What used to be the best league in the world has been overtaken. I’m not the only one in Denmark who has seen that as the hype around the already popular EPL (BPL – sorry Swansea fans out there), has only grown and news on Serie A have fallen in numbers. As Serie A is down in a trough when it comes to public support outside of Italy, or at least in Scandinavia, my feeling of support and responsibility has only grown.
I now support all Italian teams in Europe – no exceptions. Ten years ago I didn’t hate Juve, Milan, and Inter in the CL, I just didn’t care that much. With Serie A’s fall from grace in my home country of Denmark time has come for me to care.
I know that one cannot force oneself to support and to feel passion, but it has come naturally to me. I still feel more for teams like Fiorentina, Palermo, Roma, and Lazio in the UEFA competitions, but I know that if Serie A wants to make more impressions outside of Italy, and that’s something that draws sponsors and better players, also Inter and Milan need to win. After growing tired of Juventus over a decade of dominance I’m looking forward to see them represent Italy again.
But one thing is my personal hope that Calcio will redeem itself in the Anglophile eyes of Danish football fans, another things is how to get there. The much discussed UEFA coefficients are important here, no matter how tiring they are to hear about.
I support a club which has been good and lucky enough to qualify for the CL this season, I cannot however feel secure that it will happen next year or the year after that. Maybe Napoli will never again qualify and these days we have now will forever shine on as a second heyday after the happy times in the late 1980′s. Who knows?
One thing I know however is that it’ll be significantly easier for for a club like Napoli to qualify if the Italian coefficient improves. Even if I quite dislike Ibrahimovic and certainly dislike Berlusconi I know that Milan’s success in the CL will also help Napoli.. I simply cannot help support Milan in Europe, albeit not very passionately (apart from when Pippo scores). Their success is good for all of us.
Some might say that the fourth CL spot is worthless, since the Italian teams qualifying via said place, tend to be knocked out before the group stage anyway. With Sampdoria being the odd and terrible exception I do however think that it’s a good experience and a reward for both fans and players. For teams outside Turin and Milan to experience that on a regular basis we need the fourth spot back. As the European football scene has developed the truth is that clubs need to be in the CL to attract players and keep their projects going forward. Teams like Napoli and Roma needs the European success of Inter and Milan to thrive.
I understand if fans of bigger clubs, who are used to European football, couldn’t care less about the fate of Napoli. Especially when you’re living in Italy where the mutual hate feels much stronger. But even those fans have to look around and see what’s going on. Are Juve, Milan, and Inter certain of a CL spot comes 2015? I doubt so. With projects rising in mid- and south Italy the tables can be turned and suddenly Juve and Inter fans will need the help of Napoli to qualify for the CL to earn enough money and attract players to once again claim their top spot.
With UEFA financial fair play kicking in presence in CL will be imperative to maintain a healthy economy. When you cannot rely on benevolent magnates any longer all teams in Italy need that fourth CL spot even more. Go go Ibra!
Photo by albertosanfer