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 entry June 08

arly Football (Soccer) in Naples

Attila Sallustro  

Although there were medieval versions of football, what most of the world today calls “football”  (from “Association football” —whence the diminutive “soccer”) began in 1863 with the formation in England of The Football Association. Then, the first teams in Italy were organized in the north around 1890 and the current system of a single nation-wide “A-League” started in 1930 with subsequent “minor” leagues (B, C, etc.) added in the subsequent decade.

The first organized football club in Naples was formed in 1904 as “The Naples Foot-Ball and Cricket Club” by one James Poths, an English employee of a merchant marine company in Naples. The name of the “Naples Football Club” turned, simply, into “Il Naples.” The team played in Bagnoli on a field in the shadow of the Posillipo hill. There would generally be a few hundred spectators (mostly friends and relatives of the players), some of whom would happily help the players lay down chalk lines on the field before the game. The club played visiting teams and were particularly encouraged in 1906 when they defeated (3-2) a team off the English ship, Arabik, a team that included some professional English players. Il Naples then went on the road to play in Palermo, winning a private trophy awarded for the match.

In 1911 the Naples club spun off its own competition in the form of a new club named the Internazionale. Their “home field” was near the thermal baths in Agnano; the Naples team also moved away from the swiftly industrializing area of Bagnoli to a new field in Agnano. (Note that the teams were not yet “professional”; they were made up mostly of amateur athletes and anyone who was simply in good enough shape to play but who made a living at a “real” job.)

After WWI, a playing field was set up in Naples, itself, in the Villa Comunale along the seafront and the splendid new via Caracciolo and suddenly everyone could stop, watch and cheer—football fandom was born. In 1921 the original two teams, Naples and Internazionale reunited to form Internaples, the team that would represent the city in a nation now full of town teams (although still organized separately into leagues in the north and leagues in the south). The team moved to a new playing field in the Arenaccia quarter (roughly, the area behind the Albergo dei Poveri), a field that had been built in 1919 for a local military team.

The president of the new Internaples club was the young industrialist Giorgo Ascarelli, who would then be instrumental in building a new stadium in Naples and getting the Italian national leagues expanded into the current nation-wide system. He was also responsible in 1926 for changing the name of the club from Internaples to Associazione Calcio Napoli, with the team, itself, simply Napoli. This was in keeping with the Fascist view that an Italian city should not use a foreign term, Naples, to refer to itself. Also in 1926 the Fascist government abolished the North/South separation of sports leagues; thus, beginning with the 1926/7 season, Naples participated in its first nation-wide league play. On that team was Attila Sallustro (photo, above), a native of Paraguay, who had played for the earlier Internaples team; he remained with Napoli through 1937 and may be counted as the first football “idol” of Neapolitan fandom.

References: “I tifosi piu’ civili d’Europa” by Mimmo Carratelli in Estratto da Napoli e la Campania nel Novecento, edited by Amalia Signorelli. 2002. Guida Editori.
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