Monday, September 24, 2007

History of S.S.C. Napoli

Naples Foot-Ball Club: the early years
Football was first brought to the city of Naples by English sailors during the early 1900s. The origins of a football club can be traced back to William Poths, an Englishman employed by maritime agency named Cunard Lines, he was an avid amateur footballer in his spare time and decided to found a club while in Italy. A meeting was called at via San Severino 43 in Naples, with the intentions of creating one; Poths along with fellow Englishman Mr. Bayon and three Neapolitans called Conforti, Catterina and Amedeo Salsi formed the club as Naples Foot-Ball & Cricket Club; Salsi was nominated as the first ever president.

Their first kit comprised of a sky blue and navy blue striped shirt, with black shorts. Naples played their debut match against British sailors from a ship named Arabik, they competed for a trophy named in honour of Naples first president "Coppa Salsi". Naples were victorious winning the game 3-2, a feat made all the more impressive when considering Arabik had beaten the famed Genoa CFC 3-0 just days earlier. The Naples team that day was;

* Kock - Goalkeeper
* Garozzo - Defender
* Del Pezzo - Defender
* Littie - Defender

* Steinecaer - Defender
* Marin - Midfielder
* Scarfoglio - Midfielder
* McPherson - Midfielder

* Chaudorir - Midfielder
* Poths - Forward
* Ostermann - Forward

Two years after its foundation, the "Cricket" part of the name was dropped leaving the club's name as simply Naples Foot-Ball Club. During 1909, Sir Thomas Lipton of the famous Lipton tea brand, was visiting Sicily while travelling with his ship; he set-up a competition called the Lipton Challenge Cup. In this competition Neapolitan and Sicilian teams would face off against each other annually; the majority of the finals saw Naples playing Palermo Foot-Ball Club. Naples won the competition in the opening season, with a 4-2 result. The trophy was disputed six times in total, with Naples also winning it in 1911 and 1914.

Rivalry with US Internazionale Napoli
During 1912 the foreign part of Naples FBC broke off, under Bayon and Steinnegger a second Naples club was formed under the name of US Internazionale Napoli. Meanwhile Emilio Anatra remained president of Naples FBC, this started off a footballing rivalry in the city during the following years. They competed against each other in the Campania section of the 1912-13 Italian Championship with Naples coming out on top, before losing to Lazio in the next round.

The following season, the situation was reversed with Internazionale Napoli knocking out Naples, before losing to Lazio in the next round. This rivalry continued into its third season in the Campania section of the Championship during 1915, but after the first leg (won by Internazionale 3-0), the competition was called off because of World War I. It resumed after the war as both clubs survived, however clubs such as Puteolana, Bagnolese and Savoia were also now competative in the region. In 1922 the two rival clubs, under financial pressure, merged as the Foot-Ball Club Internazionale-Naples abbreviated as FBC Internaples.

Associazione Calcio Napoli: 1926
On 23 August 1926 the members of Internaples resolved to adopt a new name for their club and Giorgio Ascarelli was appointed as the first president of the Associazione Calcio Napoli. By the time the next season started, the top league system of Italy was split into two groups consisting of 10 teams. Napoli finished bottom of their group with a dreadful 1 point earned from 18 games.

This is what got them the nickname I ciucciarelli which means "the little donkeys", previously the football club had carried with them the emblem of the city of Naples, which was a horse. But after the aforementioned season, some in the city derided them as donkeys, the club however adopted O Ciuccio as it was called, making it their mascot and displaying it with pride. The following two seasons they did gradually better, finishing higher with this system each time.

At Napoli the fans’ great pre-war hero was Attila Sallustro, whose family had moved to Naples from Paraguay when he was a child. Sallustro, on account of his well-to-do background, took no salary from the club; but he was rewarded with a luxury motor car. His talent for scoring goals was evident in the 1928-29 season, when he scored 22 goals in 28 games for the club.

Serie A: 1930s
As Italian football moved into the 1930s, the league was formatted into a way in which it remains today. The 1929-30 season showed what Napoli could do on a larger scale, they finished 5th in a season which saw them defeat the likes of Torino, Lazio and Milan. Notably, Sallustro along with Marcello Mihalic became the first Napoli players to be called up to the Italian national football team around this period.

The next six seasons Napoli consistently finished in the top 10, including two third place spots in 1932-33 and 1933-34 under legendary English coach William Garbutt. Another notable club hero from this period was Antonio Vojak; signed from Juventus in 1929 the Italian scored 102 goals in 190 games over a six year period for Napoli. Top scorer of the first World Cup, Argentine forward Guillermo Stábile, also played at Napoli during the 1935–36 season.

The Neapolitan club was set to go into a decline in the years leading up to World War II, with up and down results in Serie A. They flirted with relegation in 1937 and again in 1940, where they stayed up on a goal difference of four over Liguria. Just one season before this they had finished in 5th. 1942 saw Napoli finally going down to Serie B, just four points separating them from the next six teams. Down in Serie B, during 1943 Napoli missed out on a promotion straight back up, by two points, finishing in third place just behind Brescia. At the end of the season, left their Stadio Giorgio Ascarelli stadium and moved into the Campo Vomero.

Post-War Napoli
When the championship was contested on a regional basis for the 1946 season, Napoli proved themselves the best team in the Centro-Sud region losing just three matches en route to a narrow league victory, finishing level on points with Bari, but with a better goal difference. They only finished mid-table in the final group, but it was enough to ensure the Neapolitans a place in Serie A the following year.

Napoli only managed to survive one season in the newly formed Serie A before in 1948, they were relegated again, until becoming champions of Serie B in 1949-50. They managed to step straight back into the groove of Serie A in the following five seasons, finising in the top six. Interestingly along with Fiorentina, Napoli would be the subject of the first ever RAI television transmission of a Serie A football match in 1956. During the rest of the fifties their league finishes were up and down, two lower key seasons were followed by a 4th place in 1957-58, above both of the Milanese teams and Roma.

The 1960s were a mixed time for Napoli, they were relegated in 1961, but finished runners-up in Serie B the following season, regaining promotion. 1962 was also notable for its cup success, Napoli lifted the Coppa Italia by beating Spal 2-1 in the final with goals from Corelli, and Ronzon; this was the first time a club competing in Serie B had won the competition. Unfortunately for Napoli, they were unable to follow up their cup success with top league stability, as they were relegated once again.

Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli: on the rise
The mid-sixties saw the club rise up again, their name was changed to Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli on June 25, 1964 and they were promoted as runners-up from Serie B during the 1964-65 season. During their first season back in Serie A, the Neapolitan side managed to finished an impressive 3rd place in the league with Argentine manager Bruno Pesaola at the helm. They also won the Coppa delle Alpi trophy in the same year, beating out Juventus.

Napoli came very close to winning the league in 1967-68, finishing just behind AC Milan in second place. During this spell for the club, their squad boasted several players who achieved wide-spread recognition in the game, including future World Cup winner Dino Zoff, the record breaking striker José Altafini and Naples born defender Antonio Juliano. The club managed to keep their name amongst the elite of Italian football in the early 70s, with two third place finishes in 1970-1971 and 1973-74.

The 1974-75 season under coach and former Napoli player Luís Vinício, would prove to be the closest Napoli had ever come to capturing the scudetto at this point in history. They ended the season just two points behind champions Juventus and the goal difference between the clubs was also only two. Although their efforts did not gain them the scudetto, it did gain the club access into Europe for the UEFA Cup 1974-75. Here Napoli would reach the third round of the competition, knocking out Portuguese club FC Porto 2-0 on the way.

Their second ever Coppa Italia trophy was won the same season, knocking out AC Milan and Fiorentina en route to the success, they beat Hellas Verona 4-0 in the final, with goals from Ginulfi, Braglia, and two from Giuseppe Savoldi. In the Anglo-Italian League Cup, Napoli beat English side Southampton 4-1 aggregate; which included a resounding 4-0 victory at home in Naples, to win the competition.

Because the club had won the Coppa Italia the previous season, they gained access to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1976-77, giving them their second shot at European football; Napoli managed to reach the semi-finals of the competition. The last two seasons of the 70s, Napoli came in at 6th.

The Maradona era: League and European success
The 1980s for the club started in relatively good fashion with 3rd and 4th place league positions early in the decade. But it wouldn't be until Argentine Diego Maradona joined the club from FC Barcelona, in 1984 that Napoli were truly put on the world football map.

Success with Maradona was not instant. The club had to work hard, first with an 8th position in 1984-85, then the following season they stepped up further, with a 3rd place. 1986-87 proved to be Napoli's year, with Diego; Napoli won the scudetto for the first time in their history. In doing so, they also became the first and only mainland Southern Italian team (not including Sardinian club Cagliari) to win the league, this record still stands today. It wasn't just Serie A that the club won that season either, they also beat Atalanta B.C. 4-0 in the Coppa Italia final to complete the double.

In the successive year the team were knocked out in the first round of the European Cup by Real Madrid but a runners-up spot in Serie A meant qualification for the UEFA Cup. Juventus and Bayern Munich were among Napoli's victims en route to the final where Maradona and Careca scored a goal apiece late in the second half to beat VfB Stuttgart two-one in the first leg. In the second leg, played in Stuttgart, the match ended in draw (3-3): so Napoli won their first European trophy. Napoli also reached the final of the Italian Cup that year, only to be beaten by Sampdoria.

In 1990, Napoli were champions again, although in rather less auspicious circumstances than their previous Serie A title. They were awarded 2 points after the Brazilian Alemão was struck by a coin away at Atalanta's Stadio Comunale. If this was not bad enough, Napoli's physio was caught on TV cameras exhorting the player to stay on the ground. Anyway, these 2 points weren't crucial, as AC Milan lost a match with Hellas Verona, so Napoli would've won the championship anyway. Worse was to come. Maradona made inflammatory remarks during the 1990 World Cup, appealing to Neapolitans to cheer on his Argentina team over the northern dominated Italy.

The Napoli "tifosi" responded by displaying a banner in their "curva" that read: "Maradona, You are our love, but Italy is our blood". It was touching for Maradona as Napoli was the only stadium during that World Cup in which the Argentinian national anthem wasn't jeered. Apparently, Napoli fans were the "black sheep" of Italy because they rooted for Maradona. He departed after testing positive for cocaine less than a year later, the club was in financial crisis. Although he let his nightlife affect his legacy with Napoli, Maradona will still go down as the greatest Napoli player ever. He has mentioned many times that his love for Napoli is almost as much for his native team Boca Juniors.

The following year the club won the Supercoppa Italiana, the last major trophy won by Napoli, beating Juventus 5-1. The game included two goals from Careca, two from Andrea Silenzi and the 5th from Massimo Crippa, Roberto Baggio grabbed the consolation goal for the old lady. The result was a record margin victory in the competition for any club, the record still stands today.

The club started a slow decline after wining the Supercoppa Italiana. One by one, players such as Gianfranco Zola, Daniel Fonseca and Careca departed. During the earliest part of the 1990s, the club were still holding their own in the league, although lower than the Maradona era. Since a fourth place finish was achieved in 1991-92 the club's league form diminished.

In 1997 Napoli reached the final of the Italian Cup only to be beaten by Vicenza (1-0/0-3 aet). By this time their league form was less successful, from 1996 onwards their league finishes were significantly lower, and a first relegation to Serie B came in 1998 when they recorded only two wins all season.

Napoli had to wait until the 1999-00 season to achieve promotion as runners-up in Serie B back to the Italian top division. During their season back in Serie A, Napoli were relegated straight back down; although the relegation battle was quite close, U.S. Lecce and Hellas Verona had only 1 more point than the azzurri but stayed up.

In 2001-02 Napoli failed to gain promotion, missing out by one place. This set off a spiral effect which saw the club slip further; the next season they finished a lowly 16th. Worse was to come for the club however, with a debt estimated up to €70 million, the club was declared bankrupt in August 2004.

Rebirth under De Laurentiis
Under the name Napoli Soccer a new club was born, thanks to film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis; the intention was to ensure the city of Naples would not be left without a football team. During the first season down in Serie C1, Napoli narrowly missed out on promotion to U.S. Avellino after losing 2-1 in the play-offs.

In the 2005-06 season, they went one better and won the Serie C1 championship. They secured promotion on April 15, 2006, after a 2-0 win at home to Perugia. Despite the fact that Napoli were playing in such a low division, they remained among clubs with the largest fan base in Italy. With higher average attendances than most of the Serie A clubs, (breaking the Serie C attendance record with 51,000 at one game) and six million fans worldwide. The club's name was restored back to S.S.C. Napoli in May 2006 by chairman De Laurentiis.

Return to Serie A
The team proved itself to be one of the top clubs in the Italian Serie B division. For a significant part of the season Napoli was in second place, fighting for direct promotion to Serie A with Genoa CFC. After temporarily slipping to third, they moved one point ahead of Genoa on the second-last game of the season. It would be on the final matchday that each team's fate would be decided when Napoli played 3rd placed Genoa in Genova. A win for either team would see that team promoted. A draw would see either Napoli or both teams promoted. But this latter scenario was not entirely in their hands. Fourth placed Piacenza Calcio, fighting to reduce the gap on 3rd place to less than 10 points to obtain a play-off, was hosting US Triestina who themselves were fighting to escape relegation to Serie C1. In order to do this, only a victory would do for Piacenza.

On June 10th 2007, Napoli obtained direct promotion to Serie A. The match finished in a 0-0 draw, but Piacenza were held to a 1-1 draw by Triestina after taking the lead, meaning both Napoli and Genoa were directly promoted to Serie A. When news came to Genova's Stadio Luigi Ferraris of Piacenza's final result, players and fans from both teams began to celebrate in euphoria raiding the pitch, unaware that the referee still hadn't called full time. The referee ordered that a minute of injury time was to be played. Once this finished, the celebrations officially began for two of Italy's sleeping giants. The 2007-08 campaign will be the first for Napoli in Serie A since its last relegation in 2001, and the first time in Serie A under the reformed club following their subsequent bankruptcy.

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