"I can't miss this party!" - Forza Napoli Sempre from South Australia
The 2022/23 Serie A season saw Napoli end a torturous 33-year run without the Scudetto. While the internet and social media have been flooded with visions of a jubilant Naples, Front Page Football spoke with South Australian Napoli fan Domenic Lodovici about how fans celebrated the drought-breaking achievement from the other side of the world.
South Australian Napoli fans celebrate winning the Scudetto at Modbury's Campania Club, after their side's draw against Udinese. (Ultras Napoli South Australia)
While most of South Australia was asleep in the early morning of May 5, a group of people experienced a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, finally seeing their football team win the championship. The last time Napoli won a Scudetto was 33 years ago, led by Diego Maradona. For Domenic Lodovici, a 28-year-old supporter of Gli Azzurri, seeing his side finally reach the holy grail was something that's been a long time coming.
"To be fair, it was a big relief," Lodovici shared, a lifelong Napoli fan whose connection to Naples comes from his grandmother, born in the city.
"Getting so close for so many years now and finishing second to Juventus on a few different occasions. To finally get it when I wasn’t really expecting to even finish in the top four this season, it is a massive sigh of relief, and it is beautiful to see."
As he's often done this season and throughout the years, Lodovici was awake to watch his side play live, along with his group of mates that have experienced the highs and lows of supporting Napoli together. Despite winning the championship with relative comfort in 2022/23, Lodovici admits it has been hard to stay positive throughout the years.
"It was a few years ago now when we finished second on 91 points behind Juventus, the highest tally in Italy that’s never won the Scudetto. After that, I started writing it off, thinking it was never going to happen for us, but I’m glad the boys kept at it!" Lodovici said.
Despite years of pain, Lodovici and his friends have been getting together to watch Napoli play live for over a decade. The creation of the Ultras Napoli South Australia group has made the experience of winning the championship even more special for them, allowing the group to share their emotions as like-minded fans who have suffered the same bumps along the way.
"Getting up at all hours of the morning can get draining, especially when you watch it at home by yourself. I enjoy getting up and going [out], whether it is Radio Italia, the Campania Club, or even at a mate’s house," Lodovici said.
"Watching the game together is always a good atmosphere, and you sort of win it together, and now at the end of the year, when we’ve done all the hard work, we go and celebrate together, which is good!"
When you've been burned before, starting to believe again is always a challenge. Despite bitter rivals Juventus experiencing an off year by their high standards, Lodovici's confidence in a title win improved after two positive results against the Bianconeri.
"I don’t want to sound biased because we don’t like Juve too much, but when we beat them 5-1 at the Maradona (Napoli's stadium), I thought, 'Surely, surely this has got to be our year! Surely we won’t let this slip again!' Lodovici added.
"Then, in the reverse fixture, you can’t script it any better. As a Napoli fan, I tell everyone we won the league in Turin when (Giacomo) Raspadori scored the 94th-minute goal. I think at the end of that [game], a lot of Napoli supporters had already started celebrating."
As football fans often do when their team is in an advantageous position, they turn to mathematics to work out how many points their side requires to clinch silverware. A Salernitana equaliser cancelled plans to celebrate the Sunday prior. But after clinching the title at Udinese five days later, the celebrations broke out in Adelaide like in Italy.
"We watched the Udinese game live with everyone at the Campania Club; there were massive celebrations there; there was cake and a few flares out the front. We enjoyed it," Lodovici said.
"My group of mates, we had a Scudetto party to celebrate [that] Saturday night, which was nice. But I think after getting up all season long, after these early starts, we deserved a little party at the end of it!"
Domenic Lodovici (third from the left) and his group of friends celebrate the Scudetto. (Image supplied)
For Lodovici and a couple of his mates, the celebrations in Adelaide are only the beginning. They have decided to take the plunge and travel to Italy for the experience of a lifetime to celebrate the drought-breaking Scudetto in Naples.
"It's (the trip) been sort of planned since January, but we were nervous to book. We ended up booking at the start of February, pretty much after that first Juventus result. I just thought, 'I can’t miss this party!' Lodovici said.
"I’ve got heaps of family over there, and they’ve sent me videos and photos, and they want me there just as much as I want to be there. You never know when we are going to win the Scudetto again, so you might as well enjoy it!"
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Lodovici and his friends will arrive in Bologna to attend Napoli's penultimate match. They will hope to see Luciano Spalletti's men get the three points in Emilia-Romagna before heading south, with Lodovici hoping to get a front-row seat to the epicentre of a global party.
"My tickets haven’t been confirmed yet, but I'm definitely most excited for that last matchday against Sampdoria. I am praying that I can get in the ground and finally see them lift the Scudetto after 33 years," he said.
"I am 28, so this is my whole life. I finally get to see them lift that trophy, and to see it just means so much to the city and anyone connected with Naples."
The devotion of the Napoli community in Australia is just one example of the multiple fan groups that sacrifice their time and sleep to feel connected to the teams they follow on the other side of the world.
The Napoli community now hopes its fourth Scudetto will take less than 33 years to achieve. When it does, South Australian and worldwide fans will be watching and proudly proclaiming, 'Forza Napoli Sempre', talking about the days of not just Maradona but of Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen, and co, to anyone willing to listen.
Click here to read more about the diverse range of football fan groups across Australia!