Tuesday, 11 September 2018

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: NAPOLI, 1986-90





Precocious footballing talent from poor suburb of Buenos Aires makes professional debut, just 19 days shy of 16th birthday, for Argentinos Juniors, who play in red. Displaying admirable loyalty for one so young, Diego Armando Maradona remains with the club for the next four years, after which he is sold to Boca Juniors. Boca Juniors’ strip is legendary: all blue save for a horizontal yellow band wrapped around the middle, and during Maradona’s tenure, three yellow stripes upon each shoulder indicating Adidas as the supplier.
Maradona wins the Primera División with Boca Juniors but is then sold to Barcelona. The Meyba branded kit he now wears is another classic, but will not prove as auspicious: the Argentine’s spell in Spain is marred by illness, injury, mass brawls and a nascent cocaine habit. Within two years he is transferred to Napoli, where the locals receive him with an enthusiasm bordering on mania.
On the face of it, Maradona’s latest uniform is a disappointment. Nothing wrong with the sky blue shirts and white shorts of Napoli, but the 1984/85 effort is manufactured by Linea Time, who also make cycling jerseys, which shows. It makes no odds; despite Maradona’s 14 goals, Napoli finish in eighth place.
Maradona’s second season with I Ciucciarelli is more successful. Napoli place third and so qualify for the UEFA Cup. They do this wearing gear manufactured by sportswear manufacturer Ennerre in a shirt sponsored by Buitoni, an Italian food producer specialising in pasta. Brand insignia is displayed on left breast, club crest on right, the collars and sleeves bear white trim. The strip is an improvement on the one worn the previous term, but there’s something not quite right about it. It’s more than likely that trim.

1986/87: Ennerre decide to ditch the trim. Napoli sign Andrea Carnevale and Fernando de Napoli, and Ciro Ferrara has by now established himself as a centre back to be reckoned with. Twelve games pass without defeat, including a 3-1 away win against reigning champions Juventus. Napoli go on to claim their first ever Serie A championship. They follow this up with a comprehensive victory over Atalanta in the Coppa Italia – 4-0 over two legs. The strip in which they achieve this double-winning feat borders on the sublime. Cut from a fabric Ennerre call lanetta, it’s actually a pig to play in, but the hue of blue it begets is visually pleasing. Then there’s the classic collar, the simplistic club crest wilfully adorning the right breast, Ennerre’s ‘nr’ emblem on the left, and the sponsor’s name in white. Shorts are white, socks sky blue.




1987/88: As testament to their recent achievements, Napoli are obliged to sport both the scudetto and the coccarda: a shield and a roundel respectively, incorporating the colours of the Italian flag. The club’s badge is shifted to the right shoulder, which is fine, and the coccarda takes its place. Above this, Ennerre reposition their logo; where the logo once was, now the scudetto. It’s all too much and the red and green detracts from the purity of the blue. Despite the arrival of the Brazilian forward Careca, and the ten goals he contributes, Napoli finish their campaign as runners up to AC Milan. (Maradona is the club’s top scorer with 15 goals.)

1988/89, and a change in sponsorship. The confectioners Mars will now pay to have their name printed across Maradona’s chest, for it is surely Maradona they wish primarily to be associated with. It’s worth noting that ‘Mars’ is inscribed in white. It also appears that Ennerre are toying with new materials. In certain games Napoli will be seen adorning silky, polyester based shirts, and in others heavier lanetta iterations. One assumes that the weather determines which version is worn.
Luca Fusi is signed from Sampdoria and the Brazilian midfielder Alemão from Atletico Madrid. Careca is on fire and ends the season with 19 goals, but it is Inter who finish as champions, amassing a record breaking 58 point along the way. Napoli come second again but secure their first ever European trophy with a 5-4 aggregate win over Stuttgart in the UEFA Cup.

1989/90: No significant change to the strip, except the word ‘Mars’ is now black. Napoli add a second Serie A title to their collection, thanks in no small part to Maradona’s 16 goals. They win more games, score my goals, amass more points than during their previous title-winning season, although their title-winning margin is actually less: two points, ahead of AC Milan, compared to three, ahead of Juventus.




1990/91: Maradona’s final season at Naples is also Ennerre’s. Next year Umbro will supply the shirts, while Diego will be serving a 15 month ban for testing positive for cocaine. In the meantime a few subtle changes. The scudetto once again adorns the jersey, but this time it need not vie for attention alongside the coccarda. Further, it now occupies the more traditional left side of the chest with Ennerre’s insignia relocated to the right. Ennerre have also decided to employ micro-patterning techniques, creating a motif out of their own logo. The effect is that the blue looks paler, slightly softer, than it did before. Napoli finish in eighth place, the same position achieved six years earlier.

Excepting the addition of the scudetto and the coccarda, Maradona wore five distinct jerseys during the seven years he spent in Naples. The best of the lot was probably the strip he wore in 1986/87, but there’s not much in it. You might equally fancy the shirt worn from 1988 through to 1990, which featured Mars as its sponsor rather than Buitoni – it might simply come down to whether you like your fonts with or without serifs. Or maybe you prefer the contrast in colour the scudetto and the coccarda bring, even if the overall effect is a bit busy. Whichever version you favour, they’re all representative of a specific moment in time: Maradona in his pomp, and the fairy tale he bestowed upon the city of Naples and its people.


[This article also features in The Gentleman Ultra.]

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