Before Gaetano Manfredi was elected mayor of Naples in 2021, he was a university professor specializing in seismic engineering — preparing and designing buildings to withstand earthquakes.
As Manfredi rose up to become chancellor of the University of Naples Federico II, a study was commissioned to measure the impact of fans celebrating goals scored by the Napoli soccer club inside what is now known as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
“The engineering department building is near the stadium and there’s a seismograph there that whenever Napoli scored would record enough shaking that it nearly registered as an earthquake,” Manfredi said in a recent interview.
So what magnitude might the university seismograph record when Napoli win their first Italian league title in more than three decades? With a 17-point lead and seven games remaining, the first chance to clinch comes this weekend — a long holiday weekend for May Day (Europe’s Labor Day).
“We can’t predict what the number will be but there will definitely be a lot of vibrations,” Manfredi said, flapping his hand up and down to simulate the trembling. “An earthquake. A big earthquake of joy.”
The mayor isn’t exaggerating. Support for Napoli is akin to religion in the southern city and the team hasn’t won Serie A since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two Italian championships in 1987 and 1990.
“The passion for soccer in Naples is one of the biggest passions in the world,” Manfredi said.
It’s so great that Neapolitans have cast aside their superstitions about celebrating — or even mentioning — the word “scudetto,” or title, before it happens and have been decorating the city with streamers, banners, flags and life-size cardboard replicas of Napoli players — all in Napoli blue.
The title could also be a lift socially for Naples, a city that has had problems with trash removal and crime and is seen as a poor southern cousin to the traditional northern soccer capitals of Milan and Turin.
“If we do this thing, we’ll remain on the walls of Naples forever,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said.
Maradona’s legacy remains a strong attraction in Naples. In the Quartieri Spagnoli, a huge mural of Maradona acts as an unofficial museum to the legend.
The mayor said that on days of big Napoli games or in holiday periods, up to 30,000 people visit “Piazza Maradona” daily, which makes it one of Italy’s most visited attractions.