Naples: Argentine football icon Diego Armando Maradona was yesterday feted in Naples with the awarding of an honorary citizenship from the city whose home team he led to victory in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Tomorrow I will become a citizen of Naples and I thank the council for doing this, but I have been a citizen ever since the first day I wore the number 10 shirt for Napoli,” Maradona said in a press conference on the eve of the ceremony.
“I thank my teammates, without whom I wouldn’t be here today and we wouldn’t have won all that we won. I dedicate this citizenship to my mother, my father and all the Neapolitans. Tomorrow will be an unforgettable day for me.
I also want to point out that those who said I am here for money are lying. I earned my status as a Neapolitan on the field, ok? I’d like to find the person who said I came here to earn €230,000 and I’d spit in his face,” the outspoken Argentine said.
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Maradona was asked if current star and local lad Insigne should be awarded the Number 10 jersey next season. “If he scores more goals than me, then he can wear it! I hope this can be the right season for the Scudetto, as they have the right experience now not to drop the points where they did last time.
If they hadn’t done that, we’d have been champions already. I think this is the right moment for Maurizio Sarri, Pepe Reina, Insigne, Dries Mertens and all the others. They can prove that Napoli can win the Scudetto. Many generations have passed since my day. Now the Dads have to find videos of my goals to play to their sons. Even the youngest kids know me in Naples and that makes me very proud.”
Mayor Luigi de Magistris, former team members and other local stars were due to celebrate Maradona in the central Piazza Plebiscito last night. Some 30,000 people were expected to attend. Maradona, 56, played with Napoli from 1984 to 1991, helping them win the 1987 and 1990 national titles, the Italian Cup in 1987 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.
He left Italy in 1991 amid charges of drug use and has been involved in a long controversy over alleged tax evasion. He was also accused of enjoying friendly relations with members’ of Naples’ Camorra mafia. Nevertheless, he has always enjoyed cult following in Naples.
When Italy played Argentina in Naples in the 1990 World Cup semi-final, most of the local spectators rooted for the guest team just because Maradona played for them. Italy lost the match on penalties. Earlier this year, Maradona starred in a show at Naples’ San Carlo theatre celebrating the 30th anniversary of Napoli’s first league title, and was inducted in the hall of fame of the Italian football federation.