Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images
April 5, 2017
When Gonzalo Higuain stepped out at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday evening, the Juventus striker would’ve struggled to spot a friendly face. Aside from his Bianconeri team-mates, the ground that had once been his home was now filled with 53,000 fans who showered him with hate.
Armed with thousands of blue whistles handed out by the Napoli ultras, they made their feelings towards the Argentinian striker abundantly clear throughout the 90 minutes. Angry at his decision to leave them last summer for the Turin giants, their previous adulation of him long since forgotten.
Higuain could not even count upon a travelling band of Juve supporters to back him up. As a matter of safety, the city’s prefect Carmela Pagano banned any visiting fans from gaining access to the stadium, citing reasons of “public order and security” for the decision, per Forza Italian Football.
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
Napoli fans are ready for Gonzalo Higuain’s return 🚽. https://t.co/1iy2odHI8Y
3/31/2017, 4:13:33 PM
Tickets were reserved exclusively for residents of the local Campania region and holders of Napoli’s Azzurro Card, Fan Away or Fan Stadium memberships, with those found in breach of the decision and attempting to get around it almost certain to have their loyalty programme revoked as punishment.
However, those measures did not deter everyone, with a small number of supporters still taking the chance to watch their team. Indeed, just like in most Italian cities, there are some Juventus fans—either those born in Naples or who moved there for work later in life—who only get to see the Bianconeri in action whenever they play under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
101 Great Goals @101greatgoals
The noisy reception Gonzalo Higuain received on his return to Napoli tonight https://t.co/gsufHi9txu
4/2/2017, 7:15:28 PM
To find out just how the evening went for them, Bleacher Report talked to one such supporter, Roberto. He opted to go to the game and stand among the Napoli fans, explaining his feelings as the 1-1 draw played out as he and a friend were surrounded by the vociferous home crowd:
“It wasn’t easy, of course. My friends and family know who I support but just the two of us headed to the stadium, not wearing any clothes or colours that would show we are Juventus fans.
“There was so much noise when Higuain came out to warm up, but it was a lot more quiet when Sami [Khedira] scored so early in the match, we struggled not to cheer that one. Napoli came back of course, and after 95 minutes we were lucky not to lose, Napoli were controlling the spaces and came close to winning the match with Dries Mertens a few times.
“A draw was not the best result for them but for Juve it was OK. Hopefully when we go back this week they can win and we can have fun at work in the next few days.”
Some fans were not so fortunate, however, as the video below shows a mother and two children caught cheering for Juventus who were ejected from the stadium long before the final whistle.
Mi hanno inviato questo. Sono i suoi cittadini? Questa è la sua città? Ha qualcosa da dire in merito? @demagistris #NapoliJuve #VERGOGNA https://t.co/pLOOHbEH5S
4/3/2017, 8:39:58 PM
Napoli supporters certainly did not hold back in their displeasure, insulting them and then chanting for them to be thrown out, which was probably the safest course of action for everyone concerned.
However, the aforementioned restrictions on travelling supporters meant that those brave few were certainly in the minority. The rest of Juve’s regular match-going fans had to find an alternative, gathering to watch the big game back in Turin at various bars around the Piedmont capital.
Una serata magica alla Bottega del Tifoso! https://t.co/RgbIOeXx1A
3/21/2017, 1:06:35 PM
Situated on the outskirts of the city not far from Juventus Stadium, the trendy La Bottega del Tifoso is certainly one of those. “It’s a calm atmosphere there,” one fan, Marco, told Bleacher Report. “People don’t sing and shout, they eat dinner while watching the match on television, not exactly what people think of when you talk about Napoli-Juve.”
The same is certainly not true of the Huntsman pub. Near Turin’s main railway station, it lives a strange life, taken over by the fans of whoever happen to be playing on a given night. It is often the location for the supporters of clubs for teams such as Cagliari and Palermo, but also for Juventus and Torino when they play away from home.
“It’s a great place,” said Andrea after visiting during Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash. “Last night it was full of Roma fans watching their win over Empoli, then tonight the atmosphere was completely different as the black and white took over.”
Juventus fans after the game.Adam Digby
The game petered out into a 1-1 draw that saw Juventus maintain a six-point gap over the chasing pack, just eight more matches between the Old Lady and yet another Scudetto. However, before she can chase more league points, there is the small matter of Wednesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final second leg with Napoli that will mean yet another trip south.
Fans have again been banned from making that journey to follow their team, so many supporters will be looking for a place to take in the action on television, while a small band of supporters hope to slip into the Stadio San Paolo undetected.
Hopefully one day soon the vitriol can ease and the security and behaviour will improve so these measures are unnecessary, but until then the bars and restaurants will provide the only venues.