On 5th July 1984, Diego Armando Maradona arrived in Naples by helicopter, and for seven years all hell let loose in the Italian South. For so long the ailing giant that was SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved.
Their fanatical support unequalled in both passion and size across Italy. None was more feared or hated. And how they ached for success. A history dramatic, explosive and tragic. Like the finest Italian operas.
Then came Maradona
Blessed with a ball at his feet on the field, cursed off it, the charismatic Argentine led Napoli to their first ever Title. It was the stuff of dreams. He was unplayable,
then came the dark side.
Maradona mixed openly with the city gangsters, Lo Camorra. He could do as he pleased whilst performing miracles on the pitch,
but when the magic faded?
Once upon a time in Naples attempts to chronicle those unforgettable times under Mount Vesuvius’ shadow. When Diego left his inestimable mark on this Babylon by the sea. An alluring tale of wonderful football, of glory, despair and betrayal. Of corruption, gangsters and ultimately,
In a city where the devil would have needed bodyguards, Maradona became bigger than God himself.
A perfect storm:
Welcome to Naples!
The story so far:
Since its original 2005 release Once upon a time in Naples has taken on a remarkable life of its own. Re-published in Spanish and Italian (and so nearly Arabic.) And the subject of much heated debate both online and off. Like Diego Maradona himself, it has divided opinions. No middle ground, it has always been loved or loathed and never ignored. But it is still standing and has finally arrived on kindle in an updated and revised edition.
I have received so many emails off people reading this book in far off places. When you live in Chadderton, everywhere seems far off. The departure lounge of LA Airport. From a beach in Thailand. An African doctor engrossed whilst saving lives and working for the United Nations in the Congo. Also a Palestinian police officer who read the book in snatches whilst in the midst of Israeli Gunship attacks.
And so many more.
Then in 2011, when I finally thought it had died a slow, lingering, literary death, an email one Saturday night ignited an entirely new scenario. Paul Martin of EP productions contacted me with the idea of a documentary based on the book.
Paul had me at ‘Scarface in football boots!’ So began the crazy and at times eerily world of all things Maradona. We have met and talked to characters not far removed from a Godfather movie.
Recently the stakes have upped dramatically with the brilliant award winning SENNA director Asif Kapadia and Playmaker Films expressing an interest to be involved. Now as 2014 draws in all bets are off, and Once upon a time in Naples looks set to surprise even more. Just like Maradona,
it refuses to go away.
And long may it do so.
About the Author
JOHN LUDDEN was born in the late 1960s in Moston, Manchester and inherited a love of football from his father. Resigned to the fact that as he reached his early 30s Manchester United were not going to call, he decided on the next best thing: to write about the game he loves. In the summer of 2001, his first book, Fields Of Fire: The Greatest Football Matches Ever, was published by Mainstream Publishing of Edinburgh to excellent reviews.
John then became fascinated by Diego Maradonas career in Naples and Once Upon A Time In Naples was born. What began as an enjoyable hobby turned into an obsession as his research, which included several trips to Naples, led to the discovery of the true extent of what really occurred during the legendary Argentinians spell in Italy.
John lives and works in Manchester and is married to Christine, with whom he has a two-year-old boy, Matthew, who already owns a Napoli shirt with Maradonas name on the back.