In 1896 the first official soccer match was played in Naples from a team formed by members of the Rowing Italy Club against members of other yacht clubs in Naples. It was played in a sports field remedied the center of the racecourse horse racing which was located in Campo di Marte (Capodichino).
The first soccer club was founded under the name Naples Foot Ball Club in 1906. Other associations followed which had more or less luck. In those years there was not still the Campionato Italiano and the matches were challenges organized by managers of the various teams.
In 1911 the first championship played, organized by the nascent F.I.G.C. The southern teams were admitted after qualifying matches. After the war interruption the soccer matches resumed with the teams of Campania matched in a qualifying group to conquest a place in the national championship. Two teams stood up in Naples: the Naples Foot Ball Club and the Unione Sportiva Internationale Napoli. In 1922 the two companies merged into one club called FBC Internaples.
At the time of Giorgio Ascarelli owner
In 1926 the owner of the FBC Internaples, Giorgio Ascarelli, Neapolitan textile industrialist, wanting to create a town team can participate in the national championships, changed its name with Associazione Calcio Napoli. The AC Napoli was qualified and enrolled in his first Italian league, called the National Division of 1926/27. 8 North teams (Juventus, Inter, Genoa, Casale, Pro Vercelli, Modena, Brescia and Verona), one team of Roma (Alba Audace) and the only AC Napoli from southern Italy were present in National Division. The Alba Audace, relegated at the end of the championship, merged with Fortitudo Pro Roma creating the AS Roma. Among the players in that league, Paulo Innocenti (team captain) and Attila Sallustro are remembered in the history of team. The following season AC Napoli finished in last place. It was not relegated because it was the only team in the South. It was then that replaced the prancing horse with a donkey on the emblem of the association.
At the end of the 1928/29 soccer season, in which AC Napoli was saved from relegation by another repechage, Giorgio Ascarelli decided to make large investments to ensure a decent future for the team. He bought Antonio Vojak, Istrian born player, from Juventus, and signed on the Genoa coach William Garbut winning pennant. He built a new stadium, located where today there are social housing complex Luzzatti and Ascarelli districts, called “Stadio Vesuvio” which was the match site of AC Napoli until 1942. The AC Napoli qualified in 5th place in the following season.
Giorgio Ascarelli died, still young, in 1930. The Stadio Vesuvio was named with his name. He was also among the founders of the Real Italian Rowing Club located on the marina dock in Saint Lucia. In recent years he had bought a part of Palazzo Sessa in Via Cappella Vecchia, with the help of Baron Rothschild, donating them to the Jewish community in Naples. These were used, after adjusting works in the city’s synagogue.
In the 30s the team stayed almost always ranked high. After purchasing Enrico Colombari player, called “Banco di Napoli” for the colossal amount paid, approximately 250,000 lire, the AC Napoli had twice the second place in the league, gaining the right to participate for the first time to Europe Cup, where it was ousted in the first match against Admira Wien team.
At the time of Achille Lauro owner and at wartime
In 1936 Achille Lauro, shipowner of Sorrento, became owner of the team. He had created the Lauro Fleet, one of the most important Italian private fleets. After the war he was in politics, founding the Italian Monarchist Party. He was mayor of Naples with 300,000 preferences and was elected with 600,000 votes to parliament. It is said that his political fortune was due to the fact that before the election gave as a present pair of shoes. Only the right shoe was delivered immediately, the left shoe was delivered after the election of the commander Lauro. He was also editor of the Neapolitan daily “Roma”, a popular newspaper in the 50’s and 60’s.
The president, a good entrepreneur, devoted himself to the restoration of the association’s budget which showed big losses. All the best players of the team were sold, which in any case had had their day. Even Attila Sallustro, flag bearer and captain, was sold to Salernitana because of its poor performance in recent seasons.
In 1940 AC Napoli risked being relegated, saving himself at the last moment. Following this debacle Achille Lauro resigned as owner gave up the position to Gaetano Del Pezzo.
In the early forties the team suffered its first relegation to Serie B. During the war years the AC Napoli was split into two companies, rejoining again in 1945 in Polisportiva Napoli, which became AC Naples. Since 1942, due to damage sustained during the war by Partenope Stadium (then Vesuvio, and then Ascarelli), the team used the Albricci sports field at Corso Malta and then a sports field which was located inside the Royal Botanical Gardens in Via Foria. Since 1945 the AS Naples headquarter was the Vomero stadium.
The first soccer season played at the Vomero stadium marked the return of the team to national prominence. The 45/46 season was played in two rounds. The Group A included the teams in Serie A in northern Italy while Group B consisted of the teams in Serie A and B of southern Italy. AC Napoli qualified for the final round in which he reached the fifth place. In 1948 the team was again relegated to Serie B. Only in 1950 AC Napoli, coached by Eraldo Monzeglio, managed to reach the top league. The following season arrived in Naples Amedeo Amadei, Frascati player, who had served 10 years in Roma by pennant winning. Amadei, nicknamed “the fornaretto” for the activities of his family who owned a bakery to produce bread in Frascati, remained to AC Napoli 10 years, the first six as a player in the role of striker and then as a coach.
Second ownership of Achille Lauro
In 1952 Achille Lauro, once again became owner of the team, bought Hasse Jeppson, a Swedish player who militated in Atalanta team, with a cost of 105 million lire. He was also dubbed by fans ‘Banco di Napoli”. In that year there was also the arrival of the Italian-Argentine Bruno Pesaola, called “Petisso” because of his small stature. Pesaola remained in Naples as a player until 1960, making steady with Jeppson. Later he was signed up several times as a coach.
In 1955 Luis Vinicio, Brazilian player, was hired, “the Lyon”, which came in the attack that already had the presence of Amadei, Jeppson and Pesaola. Lots of money spent, with many champions in the team, did not give the desired results. The team stood the center position championships. Only in the season 1957/58 conquered fourth place. It was the second last season to be played in the Vomero stadium. The Championship 1959/60 was played in the new San Paolo stadium in Fuorigrotta.
In season 1960/61 the AC Napoli had a crash in the second part of the season, losing practically every match and relegated to Serie B. The return of Achille Lauro to the ownership had no immediate impact in the results that the team collected in Serie B, despite investments made by a “commander Lauro”. A mid-season he was signed up as coach of the former player Bruno Pesaola, that without coaching experience in Serie A teams (until then had coached teams of the minor leagues), led Napoli in the high ranking with a-row wins. It was then that began the legend of the famous lucky charm camel coat of Petisso. In ’62 Napoli regained top league also winning the Italia Cup, the only Serie B team to reach the Cup.
The following season the team was again relegated to Serie B, following a series of vicissitudes which culminated with the disqualification of four players for doping. In that unfortunate season Brazilian Jarbas Faustinho nicknamed “Cane” was hired. Antonio Juliano and Vincenzo Montefusco were hired in the team from youth team of Napoli. The Neapolitan team remained for two seasons in B going in top league the end of the 1964/65 season with the return of coach Bruno Pesaola.
In 1964 the AC Napoli was transformed into Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli (joint stock company). The majority of the shares were sold by Lauro to Roberto Fiore who became owner of the society, Lauro retained a minority share and was the honorary presidency.
At the time of Roberto Fiore owner
Roberto Fiore was the son of the known Neapolitan poet Francesco Fiore, was a native of Portici but lived long in the district Vasto. Sport, especially football, was his passion. After he left the presidency of Naples became sport manager of Lazio Team, then President of Ischia Soccer and Juve Stabia Team. He was also president of Nautical Club Posillipo.
Omar Sivori and José Altafini
In 1965, in collaboration with Lauro who was always present in the activities of the Company, he purchased two great champions, the Argentine Omar Sivori and Brazilian José Altafini, by Juventus and by AC Milan.
Omar Sivori, nicknamed “El Cabezon” was born in 1935 in San Nicolas de los Arroyos. He began his career in the Argentine club River Plate. In 1956 he moved to Italy noticed by Juventus. He played in Juventus team with John Charles and Giampiero Boniperti, winning three league titles and also managed to win the title of top scorer in the ’59 / ’60 season. Josè Altafini was born in 1938. He had distinguished himself in the world championships in Sweden in 1958, which were won by Brazil. He played in the national along with a young Pele. Immediately after the World Cup Altafini was bought by AC Milan, where he won a European Cup and two league titles.
Sivori and Altafini, teamed by Antonio Juliano, Cane and the rest of the team coached by Bruno Pesaola, led AC Napoli to the top of the Serie A. In the 1965/66 season As Napoli won the third place very nearly to winning the league. In ’66 it won the Coppa delle Alpi. In 66/67 it qualified in fourth place also participating in the Fairs Cup (later the UEFA Cup). The following season saw the signing of the national team goalkeeper Dino Zoff.
The Napoli team, in 67/68, was very nearly to the league title coming in second place behind Milan in first place. In the following season Omar Sivori was disqualified for six days, due to a brawl between the player and Juventus coach Heriberto Herrera, after disqualification Sivori decided to retire himself as player. The team finished the championship standings center of classification.
Corrado Ferlaino owner
The engineer Corrado Ferlaino belonged to a famous and wealthy Neapolitan family of Calabrian origins. He was born in 1931 and during his youth he was an athlete reckless. He had distinguished himself as a pilot of cars and motorboats. In 1964 he arrived fifth with a Ferrari GTO in the Targa Florio. He was eager to get into sports management, alongside its real estate entrepreneur.
In 1969 the widow of former Napoli owner Antonio Corcione decided to sell her 30 percent of shares of SSC Napoli. A consortium of Neapolitan entrepreneurs, including Corrado Ferlaino, decided to submit a purchase offer to the widow. These arranged a meeting under the building in Via Posillipo where the widow lived. Three of them came up with the intention to present a proposal to purchase. Corrado Ferlaino, very clever man, saying he preferred the stairs to the elevator, climbed precipitously anticipating the elevator. He flung himself into the house of the widow Mrs. Corcione offering a check for 31 million of lire as an advance on the purchase of the shares, which was willing to pay 110 million. The widow immediately accepted. Another version tells that Ferlaino, came to widow house along with two members of the consortium, closed the other two with a key sneak in the living room in order to have time to bargain on their own. Once concluded the deal his friends, who were waiting for news in the street, asked: “So, we bought?”. Ferlaino replied: “I bought!” Days later also he bought the 21 percent of shares of Roberto Fiore, winning an absolute majority, and putting out game Achille Lauro, owner of the remaining shares of SSC Napoli.
The first championship with Ferlaino owner was marked by the sale of all best players of the team to raise cash and pay off debts that the company had at the time of its acquisition, about one billion lire. He consolidated the budget and bought little-known clever players and he managed to qualify the team to sixth place in the standings with the decisive contribution of coach Beppe Chiappella.
In 1970 Ferlaino bought Angelo Sormani who, along with Altafini in his penultimate season with Napoli, managed to qualify the team to third place in the standings. The championship was lost due to a scandalous refereeing at the San Siro against Inter, who could also benefit from a non-existent penalty in the last minutes of the match. Inter was the winner of the championship.
In 1973 Luis Vinicio was hired as coach. Vinicio had new ideas about football. He was the precursor of total football, where all the players were engaged in both attack and defense with well-specified roles. It outdated the theory that may only play half the team at a time: the attackers offensively, the median and the defense in the defensive phase. In practice, before the other teams began to take them the same philosophy, Napoli, practicing total football, could have a constant numerical superiority.
Buying Sergio Clerici and the use of young talent as Braglia and Bruscolotti made sure that excellent results were attracting in the first championship with Vinicio coach. In season 1973/74 the Naples was third behind Inter and Lazio, who won the pennant with the fundamental contribution of the “Neapolitan” Giuseppe Wilson and Giorgio Chinaglia coming from ”Internapoli “, the second team of Naples. The following season saw a predominance of the Napoli team from the start. An unexpected defeat for 6 to 2 against Juventus, due to accumulated fatigue of midweek match with Banik Ostrava in UEFA Cup, closed with the elimination from the competition, compromise the first place in the standings. A good recovery in subsequent meetings led Napoli to two points behind Juventus, first in the standings. In direct confrontation with the Juve, Napoli equalized 1 to 1 to 2 minutes from the end. A goal of the former José Altafini condemned definitively Napoli that closed the championship in second place with two points behind. Since then Altafini was “Core ‘ngrato (ungrateful heart)” for the Neapolitan fans.
The team floated the upper floors of the standings without, however, excel, in the next championships despite the purchase “two billion mister”, the amount paid to buy from Bologna the champion Beppe Savoldi. An Italia Cup and the Italian-English Cup were poor result for many investments. In the 80/81 season the Dutch champion Ruud Krol was signed on. The Napoli by Mr. Rino Marchesi coach managed first in the championship at the same level with Juventus. An unfortunate series of own goals compromise the outcome of two decisive matches against Perugia and the same Juve. The championship ended with a disappointing third place.
Diego Armando Maradona
In the summer of 1984, the SSC Napoli organized a friendly match with Barcelona. The agreement was made but the Catalan society informed the Napoli Maradona, his most representative player, might not be the match due to injury. Ferlaino knew from other sources that it was not the accident to prevent Maradona to play but contrasts between him and the company. Pierpaolo Marino, manager of Avellino team, meanwhile, had notice by Maradona entourage who tha champion was looking for an accommodation in an Italian team. Marino, a friend of Ferlaino, reported this to the president of Napoli. A few days before Ferlaino, meeting a federation manager who asked him what he intended to do to improve the team’s performance of team which had escaped the relegation to B in the season just ended, jokingly he replied: “I buy Maradona.”
The President decided to take the plunge, to
overcome the mean in which that Napoli team had been for many seasons. He began
talks with the manager of Barcelona. The price of champion increased at every
meeting between the owner of Napoli and owner of Barcelona. There was talk of
around 13 billion lire of course Ferlaino did not have and therefore he was not
able to pay. The negotiations lasted during the entire month of June. The
Neapolitan entrepreneur had made contact, through the mayor Scotti, with some
politicians who had intervened with the prof. Ventriglia, chairman of Banco di
Napoli, who were made available by the SSC Napoli a credit line to allow, if
necessary, to meet the requests of Barcelona. On the afternoon of June 30, the
last day of the transfer market, owner of Barcellona team phoned Ferlaino with
the intention of closing the deal. But it was too late because the contract had
to be deposited at the closing time of the Milan offices of the Football
In the afternoon of Saturday, June 30 Ferlaino, by private plane, went to Milan and deposited a sealed envelope filled with white sheets at the League at the time of the close of business. Then he went to Barcelona with the same plane. On the night closed the deal with Barcelona and Maradona for a sum of 15 billion lire. Ferlaino returned to Milan with same plane, convincing the night watchman to let him enter the office where he had deposited the envelope, saying he had forgotten on the desk of the officer an important document that absolutely had to recover. It must have been that excuse to convince the security guard or other (Napoli fan?), the fact is that Ferlaino replaced full of white sheets envelope with the one containing the player’s contract. Years later Ferlaino tell that even if the league had to know what had happened, Everybody was agreed to believe in the regularity of the procedure because Maradona in Italy was something that brought great benefit to the entire Italian football. On July 5 Maradona was presented in a San Paolo stadium packed of enthusiastic fans. Neapolitans, great soccer experts, knew how to appreciate the true champions, and Maradona was “better of Pelé”.
The first championship with Maradona ended with Napoli in middle ranking, after a first round subdued and a second with a great recovery of positions. In the summer of 1985 Bruno Giordano and Salvatore Renica were signed on, Ciro Ferrara was signed on by youth teams, and the coach was Ottavio Bianchi, Italo Allodi was manager. The league 85/86, the second with Maradona in the team, ended with an honorable third place behind the usual Juventus and Roma.
The two pennants
The following season, 1986/87, the team was completed with the purchase of Andrea Carnevale. It was the right year. Maradona was in a great shape as a result of winning the world title of the Argentine national team led by him. Immediately Napoli was in first place in the standings with a victory over his opponent directly Juventus. First place was maintained up the end of championship. Maradona scored ten all decisive goals. The Naples won the championship for the first time. It won with a match to play, with a match at Naples ended 1 to 1 against Fiorentina, with a goal of Andrea Carnevale, giving four points to the pursuers. Great celebration was in the streets of Naples, one afternoon and one night with all the Neapolitans to the streets to celebrate the pennant. The team added also the victory in the Italia Cup. The team was arranged with the following players: Claudio Garella (goalkeeper), Giuseppe Bruscolotti, Ciro Ferrara, Salvatore Renica, Moreno Ferrario (defenders), Fernando De Napoli, Francesco Romano, Salvatore Bagni (midfielders), Bruno Giordano, Diego Armando Maradona, Andrea Carnevale (strikers).
The following season the Brazilian Careca came which greatly reinforced the attack. The first round saw the unchallenged dominance of Naples. Napoli team was at the top with six points against the pursuers before of last five matches. Despite the advantage Napoli lost four matches in a row and tapping one, allowing the Milan of Sacchi and Berlusconi to overcome it and win the championship. Controversy and suspicions were at the conclusion of the season. It was not clear what had happened: a sudden decline in physical and psychological breakdown, a players’ retaliation against the coach for his toughness in training or whatever. That summer was marked by the sale punitive half team. Garella, Ferrario, Bagni, Giordano were transferred.
The 1988/89 season began with the arrival of Brazilian Alemao and sports director Luciano Moggi. The league was immediately Inter relevance despite that Napoli behaved worthily winning against almost important team. It was not year of pennant but of Uefa Cup. Napoli met and defeated Thessaloniki, the Leipzig and Bordeaux. It was then the turn of Juventus who meet the Neapolitans in the quarterfinals where Juve was eliminated with a drubbing that remedied at the San Paolo. The semi-final was played against Bayern Monaco that the Neapolitans met in Naples to win by 2 to 0. The return was decided by two goals from Careca who led the team to close the game in a draw. The final of the UEFA Cup was played against Stuttgart. The first match was at the San Paolo where Napoli won 2 to 1 with goals of Maradona and Careca. The goal of Stuttgart was scored by the German-Neapolitan Maurizio Gaudino. The second match filled Stuttgart of Neapolitan. The game ended in a draw 3 to 3. Napoli Maradona, Careca and Alemao scored for Napoli. It was the first international cup a certain prestige won by the Naples team. The absence of Maradona marked the beginning of the next season. Diego had not returned from Argentina, officially for health reasons, but it seems because he wanted to be transferred. Ottavio Bianchi was replaced by Albertino Bigon as coach. He had been signed on Gianfranco Zola to reinforce the midfield. Despite the absence of Maradona in the first five matches, Napoli played a first round doing almost full of available points. The second round was more suffered. The Neapolitan team lost at San Siro against the two Milan teams (Inter and Milan) leaving the top of the table. But little by little it managed to recover. In the fourteenth day of return, against Atalanta, Alemao was struck in the head by a coin thrown from the stands and had to leave the playing field. The draw of 0 to 0 was transformed by a referee in the victory of Naples for 2 to 0 because the incident occurred in Alemao. AC Milan drew with Bologna lost the top spot in the standings. Napoli consolidated its first place in the next three matches and won the championship for the second time. The basic team of victory was: Giuliano Giuliani (goalkeeper), Giancarlo Corradini, Ciro Ferrara, Marco Baroni, Giovanni Francini (defenders), Luca Fusi, Alemao (midfielders), Fernando De Napoli, Massimo Crippa, Andrea Carnevale and Diego Armando Maradona (strikers).
The following season SSC Napoli had the conquest of the Super Cup with a win against Juventus at 5 to 1. Then the team had a failure also because of the Napoli Team’s problems with Maradona, who then left Napoli for Sevilla at end of the year. The team was excluded from the first round of the Champions League and ended the season in seventh place.
Subsequent seasons were characterized by a deepening crisis of the team. Napoli won the third place in 1991/92 championship. In 1993 Ferlaino, involved in legal proceedings, left the owner of the company to Elenio Gallo. The team took part in the championships after having mid-table positions. In 1998 it was relegated to Serie B, to return to Serie A two years later. It was a swan song as soon fell back into Serie B, where the team remained until 2004, when the company SSC Napoli was declared bankrupt with automatic relegation to Serie C1. Today’s story tells us that intervention by Aurelio De Laurentiis took over the sports title by the bankruptcy court and he was architect of the rebirth of Naples team.
(Photo at the top: Il Napoli dello scudetto del 1987)