There’s no argument as to how rich that city is in terms of its ambience and cultural vibe. They love their football and this time around, with glory almost at their grasp, it felt like I’ve been thrust in the midst of kids jumping on balloons. Most of the people I met wore a smile on their face. I didn’t want to leave the city but I had some other businesses elsewhere to attend to. Every trip to that city has its own story and this time, I had a beautiful one.
While leaving Napoli on one of my numerous trips, I hopped on a taxi on my way to the airport. Taxi driver asked me the usual questions of where I am from and what I was doing in Napoli. I am from Nigeria and I am a sports journalist. I am in Napoli to cover a Napoli game because of Victor Osimhen, I said to him. Little did I know the mention of Osimhen was going to trigger a eulogy that made me smile and laugh all through the ride. Goan Carlo, the chauffeur began:
“We fell in love with Nigeria because of Osimhen, we have waited for another player as strong as Maradona for 33 years and now we have one, we love Osimhen, we love Osimhen, yes, yes he is a hero in Napoli you know because the way he acts when we plays, you know the strength, the rage in put on the field is very important for us, we can lose a match but the energy he put for us in a match is everything to us. Osimhen links two nations together.”
I asked him if he knew Victor Osimhen before he joined SSC Napoli.
“No, I never saw him before and I never read of him, but after watching him play I realise he is a good player and after couple of months, he became a superhero. You know it’s like you know Alen Berry flash. When he plays when plays you can send the ball 6 to 7 meters high center and he eats the food like a grass cutter. I love it. My two sons, I will show you the picture, one is 9 and the other one is 6, I bought them the Osimhen shirt. My son six years old always sing every time sees me, he sings the Osimhen(song).
“One and two(showing pictures of his sons) we are looking at the match with Milan, I like the rage Victor put in the field, then we can lose the match, ok no problem, one thing is to lose the match without play another thing is to lose and you give everything for this shirt. So we lose against Milan, we clap because the players did theirObest. Milan was very lucky. If osimhen had scored that goal earlier, Milan would have been roasted by him.
I have best wishes to Victor and I understand he wants to go to the Premier League, he wants that, so money first in this case and is difficult because sometimes you have to choose what you want to be, you can choose to be a player somewhere else or in our case, a king, when Cavani moved, he was a king here but went on to be just another player elsewhere. My personal opinion can be charged because I don’t know, if a team give me 10m euros each year and Napoli give me 7, here I’m a king, I go to PSG, I’m a player, this is up to you but whatever Osimhen does, he will forever remain in our hearts.”
Goan Carlo represents the voice of the average Neapolitan. Osimhen has helped Napoli win the Serie A and his journey, the sheer hunger and desire behind his story endears him to those who understand him. In Napoli, he’s king, forget that graphics design.
Carlo’s comment was one of the most heartwarming comments I ever heard, especially about a Nigerian player. I have been to everywhere following Nigerian footballers but never felt the impact Victor has had on the people and city of Napoli. It’s something that will remain for a long time. You already have people creating his murals around the city, his mask is already a thing amongst young people, we even see it used on cakes and pizzas. It’s like he’s saving lives. Remember Americans putting Tony Fauci’s image on cakes and sausages during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s how it feels. Osimhen is everywhere. The place of talent is amazing. That a boy from those Lagos streets can bring a city to its knees in one second and its hands up in the air in another is just outstanding. He got Neapolitans dreaming and his dream and theirs came through.
I left that taxi with a greet filled with joy especially because I have been a part of the Osimhen story from the beginning in Europe. The tough beginning was characterised by injuries, sickness and many problems. I was in the know through those ordeals. I’m happy he’s here, and I’m grateful he made me and Nigerians proud. And he’s yet to stop. That must scare the opposition.