Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Napoli kicked off a new era, playing the first game in their stadium since it was renamed in honour of club legend Diego Maradona.
The match at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona was a Europa League clash against Spanish club Real Sociedad.
Argentina football great and former Napoli star Maradona died two weeks ago aged 60. He lead the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.
“Being here, inside the Diego Armando Maradona stadium, is a great honour,” Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli said before kick-off.
“It’s a responsibility to play for qualification. It is a difficult match, but we will try to do our best and honour his name.”
A minute’s silence was also held before the game in memory of Italy 1982 World Cup winner Paolo Rossi who died early Thursday aged 64 years.
Rossi inspired Italy in the 1982 tournament in Spain where he was the top scorer with six goals, including a hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat of Brazil.
He also scored twice against Poland in the semi-finals and the opening goal in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.
“Paolo Rossi was a great point of reference for me,” said 48-year-old Giuntoli.
“In ’82 I saw the match against Brazil with my uncle and my father in Viareggio, they were extraordinary moments.
“I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a footballer. For me he was a point of reference, an extraordinary person and a great player.”
City authorities and the club’s president had proposed renaming the San Paolo Stadium within hours of Maradona’s death on November 25.
Napoli have already paid homage to Maradona, who played for the club from 1984 to 1991, in two home games.
The players wore his number ten for a minute’s silence in a Europa League game the day after Maradona’s death.
In a Serie A against Roma the team played in a jersey reminiscent of the Argentine colours, designed as a tribute to Maradona.
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