Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

My fellow cruise passengers hopped aboard a little ferry to mix with the great and the good on the sun-kissed island of Capri. 

I dodged the boutiques and 20 Euro gelato to stay ashore - to find out about the city's heartbeat - football.

There are no guided tours or organised stadium walkabouts. I had to go it alone. 

A few hundred yards wandering this southern Italian port I found my first bit of football graffiti. A mean 'Ming the Merciless' type face stared out with the words "Ultras Napoli".

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Moments later more daubed sky blue ink pledging allegiance to Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli (to give them their proper name). 

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I can't think why the rather threatening ultra slogans had me thinking of the well-known phrase: "See Naples and die". A sentence which basically means that Naples is so impressive that once you've seen it, there is nothing further left for you to do in life, as nothing could compare with it. 

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I guess if you had watched Diego Maradona in his Napoli pomp (259 appearances, 115 goals between 1984-1991) you may think no other player could ever compare with him.

He elevated the team to their most successful era and first ever Serie A title (1987). The number 10 jersey was retired in honour of the Argentinian who brought their club back to life. 

Despite it being nearly three decades on, Maradona's presence remains. I spend the morning in three cafes and in each one banners and photographs of Napoli's most outstanding adopted-son hang proudly.

The stadium is five miles west from the city centre in the superb of Fuorigrotta. I got in a cab. Within five seconds we nearly collided with a scooter. My driver yelled at its rider: "Kamikaze!" 

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I love football stadiums. Even empty ones. Even ones closed to the public. To me they are shrines to the beautiful game. They can ooze atmosphere even on their day off. 

The 60,240 capacity Sao Paulo is all steel and more steel. For a stadium of its stature (World Cup venue in 1990 and the third largest in Italy) the approach to the turnstiles is disappointing.

There's no grand facade, walkway, statues or monuments. Maybe this has more to do that grounds in Italy are owned by the state and not by the clubs?

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I come to what appears to be the away fans entrance because it looks so unwelcoming. But this turns out to be a regular home entrance. It's all fences and gates. And so this is the way the full way around the Sao Paulo. It's no oil painting. And I think the locals are more than happy with that. 

Would the Sao Paulo be the fortress it is with huge billboard adverts and home comforts? There's no club superstore here other than a tiny corner shop (the size of your local offi).

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Ok, this is close season. There's no football. So you may expect a stadium to look a little lonely. But even the VIP entrance looks rather bleak. From an external viewpoint it looks like it would be hard pushed to match the corporate facilities at clubs in English non league football.

A stunning piece of art near Curva A is a 25 foot long black and white painting of hooded ultras with flags and flares. It looks magnificent. I'm unsure what it means other than another show of Napoli fan power. 

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When I do reach what is the away entrance (gate 26), the ultra artists have gone to town with every available spec of wall painted. I can imagine this would be one of the most intimidating places to visit as an away fan. 

Grafitti / art at the away entrance to Napoli's stadium

There was some activity on a gate. It looked like some building work was going on inside. I asked a burly Napoli steward could I come inside to take a quick photograph: "We are closed", his unhelpful response. 

Naples - I need to return - when you have a match. 

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