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June 19, 2021
Napoli plays first match at the newly renamed Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

Napoli plays first match at the newly renamed Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

Last week, Naples city council confirmed the renaming of the Stadio San Paolo in honor of the Argentine legend, who died last month at the age of 60.

Maradona, one of the greatest footballers in history, holds a God-like status in the southern Italian city after spending seven memorable years playing for Napoli, guiding the club almost single-handedly to its first Serie A title.

On Thursday, Napoli welcomed Spanish side Real Sociedad to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for a crucial Europa League clash, in which both sides could either make it through to the knockout stages or find themselves eliminated.

Polish international Piotr ZieliƄski gave Napoli the lead inside the opening 35 minutes and it was an advantage the Italian side held for the remainder of the 90 regulation minutes. However, less than two minutes into stoppage time, Willian Jose scored the equalizer from inside the box to guarantee Sociedad passage through to the round of 32.

Despite conceding the late goal, Napoli still qualified for the knockout stages as Group F winner.

This competition, then called the UEFA Cup, was one of five trophies Maradona won during his spell at Napoli.

The Argentine magician signed for Napoli in 1984 after two injury-ravaged seasons at Barcelona — or, as one newsreader put it: “The poorest city in Italy buys the most expensive player in the world.”

In the city of Naples, football is a religion to its inhabitants and Maradona would go on to become their God.

At his unveiling, 70,000 fans flocked to Napoli’s San Paolo stadium to catch a glimpse of their new signing, scarcely able to believe that the greatest footballer on the planet had chosen to play for their team.

Murals of Maradona’s face are painted far and wide across the city, some depicting “The Golden Boy” with a shimmering halo. Though he hails from another continent entirely, Maradona became Naples’ adopted son.

Players hold a minute's silence for late Italian football legend Paolo Rossi.
Thursday’s match was an even more emotional occasion, with a minute’s silence held before kick-off following the death of Italian legend Paolo Rossi.

Rossi is best known for leading Italy to World Cup glory in 1982, scoring six goals in the tournament, including a hat-trick against Brazil in the second group stage.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian soccer players of all time, he scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for the Azzurri.