On Wednesday, February 3rd, a match between Lazio and Napoli was abandoned following repeated racist chanting on behalf of the Lazio supporters. Ahead of their game at home against Carpi at the weekend, Napoli responded with a powerful message the showed the deep connection between the city and its players.
At the start of Saturday’s game, the fans in the San Paolo stadium held up posters of Koulibaly’s face and held up a banner with the slogan “we are all Koulibaly”. The young Frenchman responded to the gesture of his local fans on Instagram:
Un momento indimenticabile per me ! Grazie a tutti i tifosi che hanno reso il San Paolo ancora una volta bellissimo con questa iniziativa memorabile per me e il Mondo intero 🇸🇳🇫🇷🇮🇹 Questa vittoria è ancora più vostra! 🙌🏾🙌🏾 GRAZIE 👍🏿👍🏿 #Koulibaly #kkoulibaly26 #teamkk26 #teamr-kell #kellermann #napoli #stadiosanpaolo #casamia #indimenticabile #grazie
“An unforgettable moment for me! Thank you to all fans who, again, made the San Paolo a beautiful place with this unforgettable initiative, for me and the world. This victory is more yours than mine! THANK YOU!”
Historically, Napoli supporters have often been the victims of racism and territorial discrimination. This is largely do to the history of rivalry and parochialism in the Mediterranean peninsula which manifests itself via the tribalism of football. Their players are often berated more than others, and fans of opposing teams call for Vesuvius to wash the city with lava, or accuses the Neapolitans of carrying cholera.
Inversely, Lazio supporters have garnered a reputation for being overtly racist over the past several decades. This case is particularly confusing given the recent boycotts of Lazio’s Curva Nord, resulting from the barriers that have been put in the stands. Many fans are perplexed by the Italian FA’s decision to ban this part of the stadium for the next two match days for this exact reason. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of what is going on locally.
Before walking off the pitch at the 25th minute of the second half against Lazio, Koulibaly gave his kit to a young Napoli fan who was at the game. A gesture that inspired a deep level of solidarity amongst the Napoli faithful.
Although it is not clear who should specifically be blamed for what occurred, our focus should really be directed at the Napoli supporters, and their unbelievable message of solidarity. Fan culture is about showing your team what it means to be proud of your city, and Napoli are a shining example of just that!