By ANDREW DAMPF, AP Game writer
If there is one place outside of Argentina that will likely match – or possibly even more – outline the mourning for Diego Maradona, it is in Naples.
While Maradona was revered around the world, perhaps the greatest footballer in Naples, he was much more than that.
Maradona was regarded as a deity in the way he led Napoli to only two Serie A titles – in 1987 and 1990 – and lifted the spirits of the southern Italian city, geographically and from the country’s football capitals. It is far from both socio-economic. Of Milan and Turin.
“Maradona was not just a player. He represented Napoli’s spirit for years, ”Corrado Ferraleno, the former Napoleonic president who owned the club when Maradona played there.
Maradona’s spokesman, Sebastian Sanchi, said he died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60, two weeks after his release from a hospital in Buenos Aires following brain surgery.
Hearing the news, thousands of Napolitans stormed the city’s streets to honor Maradona and light candles in his memory. Many of them stood under the huge mural painting of their hero which covers the entire section of the city’s buildings.
“It’s so emotional that you can’t say it with words, you can’t explain it,” said Francesco Eriko, a local resident. “He gave us a lot. He made us feel heart-to-heart feelings. “
Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris immediately proposed that the city’s San Paolo Stadium be renamed Maradona – and ordered that the stadium lights remain on all night, although no games were being played there.
“Maradona is Napoli. Everyone knows the madness here. “Maradona united the Napolitans worldwide – as well as fans of other squads.
The Mayor said, “Today all Napolitans hug their family, with the awareness that this embrace will never end.” “Because it was real love. A great love. “
Maradona, of course, had already wept the Italians when his Argentine team knocked out Italy from Naples in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup. Many Napoli fans cheered for Maradona and Argentina – not in their country – during that game.
Maradona led Napoli to the 1989 UEFA Cup title during his seven-season stay. He reportedly became a regular cocaine addict in the city – a dependency that eventually fell below football.
“Yes, he was also a controversial man,” De Magistrate said. “But for us Maradona is the one who showed dreams to Naples and the Napolitans – with his talent, his uniqueness, he made us happy. Many named his sons Diego, as he was able to capitalize on a city that was often the target of prejudices and discrimination. “
In a gesture of condolence, Napoli changed his usual blue logo to black on his Twitter account.
“Everyone is waiting for our words,” the club tweeted in Italian. “But what words can we use for the words we are experiencing? Now is the moment of tears. Then the time will come for the words. “
Current Dirties Mertens of Current Napoli tweeted, “You were the first thing I signed for Naples. Wearing a blue shirt will mean even more from now on. Napoli has lost part of its soul today. You were, and always will be, an inspiration to us all. “
Mertens is Napoli’s all-time leading scorer, with 128 goals in all competitions. Marek Hamasik is second with 121 and Maradona is third with 115.
“If my name is ever named next to you, I apologize, I will never be at your level,” Mertens said. “What you did for ‘our’ city will end forever in history. It was an honor to meet you. My idol forever.”
Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadaphora, who is from Naples, said: “He was more than a champion. He was a football talent, an absolute star. He represented unimpeachable dreams and hopes for the people of my city. Naples cries tonight. “
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