Crime, Camorra and Cocaine: How Naples and Marseille escape their troubles through football

Robin Bairner
November 6, 2013
Crime, Camorra and Cocaine: How Naples and Marseille escape their troubles through football

It was the World Cup semifinal of 1990. Home side Italy faced visiting Argentina in front of a partisan Naples crowd - only it was the South American side that many in the Stadio San Paolo wanted to see progress.

Local hero Diego Maradona turned out for the Albiceleste that day, and while there is no question the revered Argentine had an impact on turning some locals in favor of the South Americans with an appeal in the media, there is also a strong feeling in Naples that the north of Italy does not really considered itself part of the nation at all.

The north of Italy, it is perceived, looks down on the south - and this was the ultimate act of rebellion from the repressed Neapolitans.

France suffers from a similar dichotomy, with Marseille considered a city not befitting the cultured Paris capital. And that’s alright by the Marseillaise because very often they don’t consider themselves to be particularly French either.

Naples and Marseille are seen by citizens of their respective nations to be gritty, downtrodden cities, outposts of crime and lawlessness in an almost caricature manner. This is perfectly illustrated by the ‘garbage crisis’ the Italian municipality suffered from, which saw rubbish from the industrial north cram landfill sites around Naples, causing trash to go uncollected in the streets and simply pile up.

Of course, this image is not necessarily truthful – the French city, for instance, is European Capital of Culture 2013 along with Kosice – yet there is no doubt that these cities have their social problems that have helped to make their football teams such a valuable and spectacular release.

This came into particular focus in September this year when Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo’s son was shot dead from point-blank range in a northern suburb of the city. Police described the murder, which took place in broad daylight, as bearing all the hallmarks of a gangland killing.

Adrien Anigo was the 15th person shot dead in the city in 2013.  Two years previous, his father had eerily prophesied: “Marseille is the city that eats its own children.”