NAPLES, Italy: The face of a young Diego Armando Maradona gazes down from a mural in Naples’ Miracles Square, watching the city gear up for a celebration it hasn’t enjoyed since the Argentine soccer star was at his peak more than 30 years ago.
Miracles for Neapolitans, who grew up in a city steeped in mysticism and superstition, are happening on the pitch, as their team cruise towards a third Serie A triumph and prepares for their first ever quarter-final in the Champions League.
“This comes from the soul of Maradona. It is him, watching us from above,” said Raffaele Cardamone, a 51-year-old truck driver, indicating the newly completed mural portraying the stocky football genius, who died in 2020.
“It is the hand of God,” he added, referring to the famous goal Maradona that scored with his hand in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, which helped Argentina knock out England.
Maradona was also the driving force behind the Napoli team at that time, helping the city win its first league title in 1987 and its second just three years later in 1990.
With 11 games left to play, the southern Italian side have a 19-point lead over second-placed Lazio and their title dream could become reality as early as the second half of April, more than a month ahead of their final league fixture.
Neapolitans are already celebrating the third Scudetto – literally “shield” – as the Italian league title is known, seeing it as revenge on the wealthy northern cities of Turin and Milan, whose teams Juventus, Inter and AC Milan have dominated Serie A for the past three decades.